December 02, 2013
Contact: SA Timothy Desmond
Phone Number: 617-557-2100
Former Employee Of Exeter Hospital Sentenced In Connection With Widespread Hepatitis C Outbreak
CONCORD, N.H. - David M. Kwiatkowski, 34, a former employee of Exeter Hospital, was sentenced today to 39 years in prison for his conduct in causing a widespread Hepatitis C outbreak in numerous states, announced John J. Arvanitis, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement for New England, United States Attorney John P. Kacavas and Barry R. Grissom, United States Attorney for the District of Kansas.
After working as a health care technician at several medical facilities in Michigan between 2003 and 2007, the defendant became a "traveling" radiologic technician, using various placement agencies to find employment at medical facilities in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Arizona, Kansas, Georgia, and New Hampshire. While employed as a "traveler," he stole syringes of Fentanyl - a powerful anesthetic to which he did not have authorized access - intended for patients undergoing certain medical procedures. He replaced the stolen syringes with syringes that he had stolen from previous procedures and refilled with saline, after having injected himself with the Fentanyl intended for his patients.
The defendant engaged in this diversion and tampering despite knowing that he was infected with Hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus that can cause serious damage to the liver as well as other complications. Precisely when he contracted the virus remains an open question. However, the defendant learned no later than June of 2010, while employed at Hays Medical Center in Kansas, that he was infected with Hepatitis C. Despite that knowledge, he continued to inject himself using stolen Fentanyl syringes, in the process causing those syringes to become tainted with his infected blood. He refilled those tainted syringes with saline and replaced them for use on unsuspecting patients undergoing subsequent procedures. Consequently, instead of receiving their prescribed dose of Fentanyl with its intended anesthetic effect, those patients actually received saline tainted with the defendant's strain of the Hepatitis C virus.
As a "traveler," the defendant worked in no fewer than eight different states and he engaged in this diversion and/or tampering in each of them. His criminal conduct only came to light when several unexplained cases of Hepatitis C were detected at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire in May of 2012. That discovery triggered a massive public health investigation in which authorities in New Hampshire, other states in which the defendant had been employed, and the Centers for Disease Control and (CDC) sought to identify the scope of the defendant's criminal conduct. All told, the CDC recommended that more than 12,000 patients seek testing to determine whether the defendant infected them. Testing to date has revealed that 32 patients who were treated at Exeter Hospital, six patients who were treated at Hays Medical Center in Kansas, six patients who were treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland, and one patient who was treated at the VA Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland carry a strain of Hepatitis C that has been genetically linked to the viral strain with which the defendant is infected.
An individual who has a personal relationship with one of the Exeter Hospital victims also has become infected with the same strain of the virus. Additionally, Hepatitis C contracted from the defendant has been identified as a contributing factor in the death of an elderly Kansas patient. The defendant's 40-year sentence was imposed on his pleas of guilty to eight counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud and eight counts of tampering with a consumer product. Fourteen of those charges were initiated in New Hampshire and two charges were transferred from the District of Kansas. This sentence is believed to be the highest sentence ever received for a crime of this nature.
This investigation involved the cooperative efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations of the Food and Drug Administration, the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office, the New Hampshire State Police, and the Exeter, New Hampshire Police Department. Assistance also was provided by the New Hampshire Drug Task Force, the Marlborough, Massachusetts Police Department, the Boxborough, Massachusetts Police Department, and the United States Attorney's Offices in the District of Massachusetts, the District of Kansas, the District of Maryland, and the Middle District of Georgia. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Farley. The Kansas aspects of the case were handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway.