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Nurse Sentenced for Drug Sales Two Years After Cherokee Teen's Death

A federal judge is sending the former New York native to three years in prison for selling the drug on eBay.

A registered nurse was sentenced to 3 years in federal prison for selling a Valium-like "party drug" on eBay that was used by an Acworth teen who accidentally died in August 2010 after taking that drug and two others

Matthew Schroeder was sentenced today, Oct. 10, by U.S. Senior District Court Judge J. Owen Forrester for selling phenazepam, which is not approved for sale in the United States. While it is not listed as a controlled substance under federal drug laws, its sale for human consumption is prohibited in the United States except for research under strictly regulated terms. 

 Schroeder, 29, formerly of North Tonawanda, NY, was sentenced to 3 years in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was convicted on Aug. upon pleading guilty to dispensing a misbranded prescription drug without a prescription and with intent to defraud and mislead.

.U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, "As a registered nurse and abuser of phenazepam, Schroeder was especially aware of the drug’s dangers, yet he marketed the drug over eBay with no warnings and a fraudulent banner purporting to prohibit purchases by law enforcement and for any purpose other than research.”

In August 2010, an 18-year-old man from Acworth, bought phenazepam from Schroeder’s eBay site.  On the night of Aug. 24, 2010, the 18-year-old, his teenage friends and Kerrie Sue Chatham, 44, were partying at Chatham’s home in Acworth, according to Yates and court records.  While watching movies, the 18-year-old mixed phenazepam in powder form with alcohol and then injected the mixture. The 18-year-old was also taking oxycodone pills given to him by Chatham. On the morning of Aug. 25, Cherokee County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call from the Chatham home. They arrived to find the 18-year-old unconscious with a nose bloodied from an overdose. The teen, Chatham and two others were taken to the hospital. The 18-year-old later died, while the others were hospitalized and released. An autopsy concluded that his death was an accident caused by phenazepam, oxycodone and propoxyphene.

Chatham was arrested on state charges for distributing oxycodone, a Schedule II drug, and sentenced to serve three years in prison.  An investigation by Special Agents of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office traced the 18-year-old’s purchase of phenazepam from Matthew Schroeder through eBay, email and PayPal records, along with information provided by the 18-year-old’s parents. This evidence led the investigators to North Tonawanda, New York, where they discovered evidence of phenazepam sales in Schroeder’s apartment and computer.  Schroeder admitted selling phenazepam to 18-year-old and others around the country.

Phenazepam is a benzodiazepine drug related to Valium but many times stronger.  Phenazepam magnifies the effects of other substances and can be fatal in small doses, especially when mixed with alcohol and other depressants.  Even snorting one line can cause an overdose.  Its delayed effect, which can take 2-3 hours, compounds its dangers by inviting the inexperienced user to re-dose. An overdose can quickly lead to loss of bowel control, respiratory depression, coma and death.  Side effects can last for days and sometimes weeks.

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