Kimber Pleads Guilty to Using Mercury as a Chemical Weapon at Albany Medical Center
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 29, 2012|
ALBANY—Richard S. Hartunian, United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York, announced today that Martin S. Kimber, 59, of Ruby, New York, pled guilty before Senior U.S. District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn to all three counts of an indictment that charged him with using a toxic chemical, mercury, as a weapon (counts one and two), and tampering with consumer products (count three). Kimber admitted that on four occasions, he spread mercury, a potentially fatal neurotoxin, throughout various areas of the Albany Medical Center in ways which could lead to inhalation or absorption of the mercury, to retaliate for what he thought were unfair hospital bills.
In pleading guilty, Kimber admitted that:
- $ On or about December 10, 2010 and December 23, 2010, Kimber received medical treatment at the Albany Medical Center, Albany, New York. On various dates thereafter, including on January 24, 2011, Kimber wrote to express concern about having to pay for his medical care. On February 22, 2011, the Albany Medical Center Associate Medical Director wrote back and explained why the bills were appropriate and discussed the outcome associated with Kimber having provided inaccurate information about his injury and his decision not to complete the care prescribed by his treating physician.
- On or about March 28, 2011, April11, 2011, June 23, 2011, and March 2, 2012, patients, visitors, and hospital personnel discovered liquid mercury deposited in sundry locations throughout the Albany Medical Center. On March 28, 2011, mercury was found in the level D basement, the hallway outside the Post-Operative Care Unit, the Triage window in the emergency room, and in the tracks to the door of the center elevator for Building D. Hospital; emergency response units identified and collected several pounds of mercury. On April 11, 2011, mercury was found in the men’s bathroom on the AI level and in the main hallway in Building E, extending from the M doors to the elevator lobby. Approximately one to two pounds of mercury was collected by emergency response personnel. On June 23, 2011, mercury was found on the pedestrian ramp leading from the main lobby up to the pedestrian parking garage bridge and in the E-1 corridor exiting the Choice Cafe and the center elevator of Building A elevator triplex. Approximately two pounds of mercury was collected. On March 2, 2012, mercury was found in the cafeteria at Albany Medical Center, in the salad bar, in an apple bowl, in a banana basket, in a toaster, on a table by the coffee station, in the cooler for the packaged salad dressing, in the ice cream freezer, and in a container of chicken tenders that were being warmed under heating lamps and were available for purchase and consumption by cafeteria customers.
- Kimber was responsible for each of these mercury disposals and for tampering with the described products, including the mercury, each item of food, and the restaurant equipment, to include the fruit, bowl, toaster, table, cooler, freezer, and heating lamps. The food products and food containers into and near which the defendant deposited mercury affected interstate commerce.
- Kimber’s purpose in disposing of the mercury throughout the Albany Medical Center and cafeteria on multiple occasions was to retaliate for hospital bills that he felt were unfair by causing panic at the hospital/cafeteria and an attendant loss of business when people became fearful of gaining treatment and eating there.
- On March 29, 2012, Kimber possessed two canisters of mercury, one stored in his car and the other stored in his house. A search by law enforcement officers resulted in the seizure of both canisters. Kimber engaged in computer searches at sites where more mercury could be purchased.
Mercury is a well-documented hazardous substance. Among other things, mercury is a neurotoxin that can kill human nerve cells. Mercury is readily absorbed through unbroken skin. Inhalation and other forms of absorption can lead to death, brain, and lung damage; impairment of speech; constriction of the visual field; hearing loss and somatosensory change; and other serious bodily injuries. Having been a licensed pharmacist for 36 years, Kimber well understood these dangers and that the heating of mercury, including the placing of mercury on or in toasters, and on or around heated food, greatly increased the likelihood that mercury would vaporize into the air and be inhaled by individuals consuming such food or using or near such heating devices.
As part of his plea agreement, Kimber agreed to abandon his computer and consented to the entry of an order directing him to:
- Pay restitution to the Albany Medical Center in the amount of $200,451.48;
- Pay restitution in full to the United States for any expenses incurred incident to the seizure, storage, handling, transportation, and destruction of any property seized in connection with an investigation of his use of mercury as a chemical weapon;
- Pay restitution to any other victims;
- Forfeit the residence at 8 Lena Lane, Ruby, New York; and
- Forfeit his 2007 Pontiac Solstice.
Kimber was arrested on April 25, 2012, by special agents of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. On March 2, 2012, following a hearing, Kimber was detained as a danger to the community. He remains in jail pending imposition of sentence.
Each count charging the use of mercury as a chemical weapon carries a maximum possible term of life imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross loss to any victim. The consumer product tampering charge carries a maximum possible penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross loss to any victim.
Sentencing in this matter has been set for March 7, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. in Albany.
United States Attorney Hartunian said, “Congratulations and thank you to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Food and Drug Administration-Office of Criminal Investigations, whose cooperative investigation quickly brought the defendant to justice for this very dangerous conduct; to the patients, visitors, and hospital personnel who discovered the mercury; and to the emergency response units who collected it. Their alertness and professionalism prevented the dire consequences that could have resulted from the defendant’s use of several pounds of mercury as a chemical weapon and contaminating food and food service items at a hospital.”
“There are honest accidents and there are clear cases of criminal conduct,” said William V. Lometti, Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in New York. “The defendant’s action threatened public health and safety and sent an innocent victim to the hospital. Today’s plea demonstrates that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated. EPA is encouraged by the level of partnership shown by the local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies involved in this joint investigation.”
The defendant demonstrated a disregard for the potentially life-threatening consequence of his actions and for the potential harm that he could have inflicted,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark Dragonetti of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, New York Field Office. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement counterparts to aggressively pursue those who place the public health at risk and harm others by tampering with food, drugs, or other FDA-regulated products.”
This case was investigated by special agents of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Food & Drug Administration-Office of Criminal Investigations. Assistance has been provided by the Towns of Albany and Ulster Police Departments. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Craig Benedict, to whom questions may be directed at 315-448-0672 or cell phone 315-391-1110.