Phentermine and other drugs

U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater rescheduled the men's trial for Nov. 5 because of negotiations for potential plea agreements in the case.

"The court finds the defendants need additional time to negotiate a favorable resolution of these cases," Fitzwater said Wednesday in a written order.

All three men want to plead guilty in the case, their attorneys have told the government, Assistant U.S. Attorney Candina Heath said Tuesday in a written motion requesting postponement of the trial.

Bill McArthur, a family practice doctor, signed a proposed plea agreement Sept. 17. He wants his case transferred to U.S. District Court in Savannah, where he plans to formally plead guilty, Heath wrote.

Details of his plea agreement were not available Friday because it has not been finalized.

Bill McArthur couldn't be reached by telephone for comment Friday. Federal court rules forbid attorneys from discussing pending cases outside of court proceedings.

He remains licensed to practice in Georgia, records on file with the Composite State Board of Medical Examiners showed Friday.

His father, Frank McArthur Jr., hasn't signed his proposed plea agreement because his attorney is requesting some revisions. There also are logistical problems because he lives in Mississippi and the case is being heard in Dallas, Heath said in the motion.

DeFrank has not signed his proposed plea agreement and has not appeared before a federal judge in Dallas for the case, court documents show.

The McArthurs are each charged with single federal counts of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

DeFrank is charged with one federal count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.

The McArthurs and DeFrank previously have pleaded not guilty to the charges brought in related indictments handed up Nov. 9 last year and April 4 by federal grand juries in Dallas, court records show.

The indictment charges that the McArthurs operated a "call center" from the spring of 2004 through Sept. 20, 2005, that approved prescription drug orders for Internet customers of a discount drug company.

Among the controlled substances distributed were hydrocodone, a powerful painkiller; phentermine, a weight-loss drug; and alprazolam, a depressant, the indictments showed.

A half-dozen physicians including Bill McArthur and DeFrank approved the customers' drug orders. Payment for their approval was characterized as consultation fees, according to the indictments.

Frank McArthur supervised the call center and paid the physicians for participating in the scheme, the indictment states.

Conspiracy to distribute controlled substances is punishable by three to five years in federal prison for a first offense, depending on the drug. Money laundering conspiracy is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.

The men would have to serve at least 85 percent of any prison sentence imposed because there is no federal parole.