Last year, Dr. Kenneth Pettine was arrested on a handful of charges related to prescription fraud. Now, he can never practice medicine again. The Coloradoan takes you inside the investigation.
In hindsight, Sherri Kaspar feels weird about the Fudgsicles.
Nationally renowned spinal surgeon Kenneth Pettine bought them for her after he performed a procedure that Kaspar said left her without use of her legs and triggered relentless, debilitating infection.
Pettine stowed the treats in a freezer at McKee Medical Center in Loveland, scrawling her name on the box he bought for her to enjoy post-surgery.
Kaspar used to think the gesture meant Pettine was her friend. Now that Pettine is a convicted criminal barred from practicing medicine, she considers the ice cream a symbol of the doctor’s knack for manipulation.
“He tried to buy me off,” she said during an interview at her Kersey mobile home.
That incident was a long time ago — 26 years ago, to be exact. But Kaspar’s experiences illustrate the two vastly different versions of the Johnstown surgeon arrested in June 2016 on suspicion of prescription fraud.
Pettine’s supporters paint him as a man of faith, an Eagle Scout, a brilliant surgeon with “hands of gold” who financed college educations and saved children from disease and neglect with his own money.
Others describe a darker side of Pettine: A drug-addled smooth-talker who botched surgeries, lied on medical records and used his position of power to secure an endless stream of prescription drugs. Several former patients said they went to Pettine for help and emerged from surgeries in excruciating pain, suffering from mistreated infections and lifelong disabilities.
Maybe you saw Pettine in the news last year. It was a big story.
On May 2, 2016, Kenneth Pettine was a well-regarded figure in the medical field who’d performed 12,000 spinal surgeries. He had a $2.4 million mansion and ownership stakes in three medical practices and a surgical center.
Then his minority partners at Johnstown’s Premier Regenerative Stem Cell and Wellness Centers turned him in. The criminal investigation that followed left Pettine stripped of his medical license and saddled with lawsuits and misdemeanor convictions.