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U.S. widens investigation of Benoit's doctor

By Harry R. Weber
Associated Press
Published July 13, 2007

ATLANTA -- Federal agents have expanded their investigation of pro wrestler Chris Benoit's personal doctor to include former patients and other patients of his who have died, The Associated Press has learned.

An affidavit by a federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent that was part of a warrant to search Dr. Phil Astin's office for a third time said investigators on Tuesday seized 68 boxes of documents, including patient records and billing statements.

The affidavit said agents were in part looking for medical records of inactive or deceased patients, including medical tests, test results and physician notes.

The search followed a statement agents received last week from an unidentified source who was associated with Astin's practice and has known him personally for about 10 years. The source said files for former patients or patients who have died may have been stored in a copy room at Astin's office, the affidavit said.

A sheriff's official previously said that Astin also is being investigated in the February 2006 death of another wrestler, Michael Durham. State officials have not returned repeated calls in recent days seeking details on that case.

Last week, Astin pleaded not guilty to federal charges of improperly prescribing painkillers and other drugs to two patients other than Benoit in 2004 and 2005. He was released on $125,000 bond, but is generally restricted to his home.

Astin's lawyer, Manny Arora, said Thursday that he wasn't aware of the new search of Astin's office, but he wasn't surprised by it either.

"It's their job to look through everything," Arora said.

Police have said Benoit strangled his wife and son and then hanged himself in his suburban Atlanta home the weekend of June 22.

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