Doctor Gets Ok To Practice

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A former Payson doctor who last year pleaded guilty to two felony counts of illegally obtaining prescription narcotics has received the Arizona Medical Board's OK to open a private practice in Springerville.

The board, however, issued Mark Mouritsen a decree of censure, saying he was guilty of unprofessional conduct, must serve five years' probation, cannot prescribe certain narcotic medicines, must join the board's Monitored Aftercare Program, and work under the supervision of another physician.

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Mark Mouritsen

That physician is Thomas Bennett, formerly of Payson and now of Springerville.

Roger Downey, public information officer for the Arizona Medical Board, said that during Mouritsen's Aug. 11 appearance before the board, he accepted responsibility for his actions.

"He said what he did was not anyone's fault and that his suffering had humbled him," Downey said. "He said he was sorry for the embarrassment he had caused everyone."

Mouritsen also told the board he was representing himself at the hearing because he could not afford an attorney.

"He said he was living in a strip mall (office) and didn't even have a shower," Downey said. "He did say if the board modified the (previous) restrictions, he could open his clinic immediately."

Those restrictions -- issued May 12, 2004, by the board -- said Mouritsen could practice in a group setting only.

The board voted 11-0 to allow him to open his own practice. One member was absent.

The board did not rule on another case in which medical records from Mouritsen's Payson office were discovered May 21, by Payson police officers in a dumpster near his former home.

Mouritsen has denied throwing the records away, saying they were being kept under lock and key.

According to Payson Police Detective Jason Hazelo, the incident is now considered a civil issue rather than a criminal one.

The Arizona Medical Board's investigation of the missing records is continuing, Downey said.

After storing the records for about a month, officers turned them over to Mouritsen.

In September 2004, the doctor was sentenced to six years' probation and 720 hours of community service in a plea agreement with Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores.

He was arrested January 2004 following a three-month investigation by narcotics detectives, who found that he and his wife, Carolyn, were illegally obtaining narcotics by writing prescriptions for patients in return for a portion of the medication.

Mouritsen and his wife were eventually indicted by a grand jury on 18 counts of obtaining Vicodin and OxyContin by fraud and one count of conspiracy.

Carolyn Mouritsen was sentenced to 180 days in jail and three years' probation for her part in the scheme.

According to Flores, Carolyn Mouritsen received jail time, and her husband did not, because she played a bigger role in the crimes.

"She was a little more complicit in it than he was," Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner said.

Mark Mouritsen did not return phone calls.

Downey said the Monitored Aftercare Program will provide the former Payson physician with the education, intervention and posttreatment support he needs to resume practicing medicine.

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