David M. Kwiatkowski, 33, a former employee of Exeter Hospital, has been indicted for his alleged role in causing the hepatitis C outbreak that infected patients in New Hampshire as well as other states, announces United States Attorney John P. Kacavas.
Kwiatkowski has been charged with seven counts of tampering with a consumer product and seven counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud. The charges relate to suspected thefts of the controlled substance fentanyl, a powerful anesthetic used in various medical procedures. In addition to stealing fentanyl and depriving patients in his care of the intended analgesic effect of the drug, Kwiatkowski allegedly caused over 30 individuals in New Hampshire and elsewhere to become infected with hepatitis C, a bloodborne 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.
According to the indictment, Kwiatkowski was employed for several years as a healthcare worker in Michigan. Beginning in 2007, he became a traveling health care technician, employed in various states, including New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Arizona, Kansas, Georgia and New Hampshire.
The indictment alleges that Kwiatkowski was infected with hepatitis C and that he was aware that he carried the disease since at least June 2010. He began working at Exeter Hospital in April 2011.
The indictment alleges that Kwiatkowski devised a scheme to obtain fentanyl for his personal use and abuse. He is charged with surreptitiously taking syringes of fentanyl, prepared and intended for patients scheduled to undergo a medical procedure, and replacing them with syringes that he had previously stolen and filled with saline. Kwiatkowski used the stolen syringes to inject himself, causing them to become tainted with his infected blood, before filling them with saline and then replacing them for use in the medical procedure. Consequently, instead of receiving the prescribed dose of fentanyl, patients instead received saline tainted by Kwiatkowskis infected blood. Kwiatkowski, on the other hand, would inject himself with the fentanyl dose prescribed for the patient but secreted from the procedure.
The patients who received the tainted saline thus were exposed to Kwiatkowskis hepatitis C virus. The indictment alleges that more than 30 people in New Hampshire and elsewhere have become infected with the same strain of hepatitis C carried by Kwiatkowski.
Kwiatkowski was arrested on July 19, 2012, in Massachusetts. He thereafter was transported to New Hampshire where he has remained in custody.
If convicted on the pending charges, 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 $250,000.00 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 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 Generals Office, the New Hampshire State Police, and the Exeter, New Hampshire Police Department. Assistance also has been provided by the New Hampshire Drug Task Force, the Marlborough, Massachusetts Police Department, the Boxborough, Massachusetts Police Department, and the United States Attorneys Office in the District of Massachusetts.
An indictment is merely an allegation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Source: U.S. Attorney's Office