Former Employee of Exeter Hospital Pleads Guilty to Charges Related to Multi-State Hepatitis C Outbreak
|U.S. Attorney’s Office August 14, 2013|
CONCORD, NH—David M. Kwiatkowski, 34, a former employee of Exeter Hospital, pleaded guilty today to eight counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud and eight counts of tampering with a consumer product, announced U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire John P. Kacavas.
During the plea hearing, Kwiatkowski admitted that he had been employed as a health care technician in Michigan between 2003 and 2007. Beginning in November 2007, he became a “traveling technician,” working through various placement agencies at medical facilities in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Arizona, Kansas, Georgia, and New Hampshire.
Kwiatkowski also admitted that, in June 2010, he became aware that he was infected with the Hepatitis C virus. It is unknown when Kwiatkowski contracted the infection. Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that can cause serious damage to the liver. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hepatitis C causes more deaths annually in the United States than HIV.
Kwiatkowski admitted that while employed as a health care technician at Exeter Hospital in 2011 and 2012, he devised a scheme to divert and steal the controlled substance Fentanyl for personal use and abuse. Fentanyl is a powerful anesthetic intended for patients undergoing medical procedures, among other uses. Kwiatkowski admitted that he would surreptitiously take syringes of Fentanyl prepared for patients, inject himself with the drug, and refill the syringes with saline, causing the syringes to become tainted with his infected blood. He then replaced the tainted syringes for use on unsuspecting patients. Consequently, instead of receiving the prescribed dose of Fentanyl together with its intended anesthetic effect, patients actually received saline that was tainted with the same strain of Hepatitis C carried by Kwiatkowski.
Kwiatkowski also admitted that he engaged in this conduct at several other hospitals, including Hays Medical Center in Kansas and Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Maryland.
Kwiatkowski’s conduct initially came to light after several unexplained cases of Hepatitis C were detected at Exeter Hospital in May 2012. As part of the public health investigation of this Hepatitis C outbreak, at least 32 patients who were treated at Exeter Hospital, six patients from Hays Medical Center, six patients from Johns Hopkins, and one who was treated at the VA Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, have been found to have a strain of Hepatitis C that has been genetically linked to the strain carried by Kwiatkowski. Kwiatkowski was arrested on July 19, 2012, and he has remained in custody since that date.
Kwiatkowski pleaded guilty to all 14 charges in the indictment pending against him in New Hampshire. At the same time, he agreed to have two charges recently filed against him in Kansas transferred to New Hampshire and he pleaded guilty to them as well. Kwiatkowski is scheduled to be sentenced on December 3, 2013, at 9:30 a.m.
“This development marks another step on the road to justice for this defendant and for his many victims,” said U.S. Attorney Kacavas. “Tragically, for his victims, the defendant’s admissions of guilt are too little, too late. I am grateful to New Hampshire’s public health authorities, who finally put a stop to the defendant’s serial conduct by reporting it to law enforcement. And his guilty pleas today are a direct reflection of the strength of a case built by the dedicated investigative efforts of our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, to whom I am also deeply grateful.”
Kwiatkowski faces up to 10 years in prison for each count of tampering with a consumer product and up to four years in prison for each count of obtaining controlled substances by fraud. Each offense also is punishable by a fine of $250,000 and a term of supervised release following any sentence of imprisonment.
This investigation, which remains active and ongoing, has involved the cooperative efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement entities, including the FBI, 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 U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the District of Massachusetts, the District of Kansas, the District of Maryland, and the Middle District of Georgia.