Kristen Parker, a former Rose Medical Center surgical scrub technician, was indicted today by a federal grand jury in Denver, announced David Gaouette, Acting U.S. Attorney, Stephen Holt, Special Agent in Charge of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, Kansas City Field Office, and Jeffrey Sweetin, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Denver Division. Parker, 26, of Elizabeth, Colo., was named in a 42-count indictment charging product tampering and obtaining controlled substances by deceit. She remains in federal custody, being held without bond pending a resolution of her case.
Parker was originally charged in a three-count criminal complaint in U.S. District Court in Denver on July 2, 2009. She made her initial appearance in federal court on July 6, 2009, where she was advised of the charges pending against her. On July 9, 2009, Parker waived her right to a preliminary hearing. She did, however, contest her detention. U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer found at that hearing that Parker was a danger to the community. He ordered her held without bond.
Parker was a surgical scrub technician at Rose Medical Center in Denver and then at Audubon Surgery Center in Colorado Springs, where she assisted in surgical procedures. She had hepatitis C while she worked at both facilities. Parker is accused of stealing a powerful narcotic drug, fentanyl, from surgical patients. She would inject herself with a syringe containing the narcotic. She would then fill the same dirty syringe with saline and put it back on the surgical tray. Patients who needed the pain medication during surgery did not receive it. What they did receive, however, was exposure to Parker’s hepatitis C. To date, 19 patients at Rose Medical Center have tested positive for hepatitis C that can be linked back to Parker.
The indictment charges Parker with 21 counts of tampering with a consumer product and 21 counts of obtaining a controlled substance by deceit, or attempt. All of the indicted conducts relates to when Parker worked for Rose Medical Center. None of the charged conduct involves Audubon, although testing is only halfway complete at both places, and additional charges via superseding indictments are possible.
According to the indictment, between October 22, 2008, through April 15, 2009, Parker, with reckless disregard for the risk that another person will be placed in danger of bodily injury, and under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to such risk, tampered and attempted to tamper with consumer products, namely the removal of Fentanyl from a syringe, and replacing it with other substances. Further, the indictment alleges that she knowingly and intentionally obtained, and attempted to obtain, Fentanyl by deceit.
“I would like to reassure the victims of Kristen Parker that prosecuting this case is a priority, and that their interests will be well represented,” said Gaouette.
“The FDA Office of Criminal Investigations considers this illegal conduct very serious and is fully committed to investigating and supporting the prosecution of those who endanger the public health by tampering with medical products,” said Steve Holt. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and commend the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their diligence.”
“Diversion of pharmaceutical drugs is a concern for our communities and our country,” said Sweetin. “The diversion of drugs in this case is all the more concerning, because medical patients were being denied the prescribed drugs they needed to control pain during surgery. The cooperation of medical professionals is critical for DEA and law enforcement to effectively do our job in these types of investigations. We applaud the cooperation Rose Medical Center has given our agents, which has allowed charges to be filed in this case.”
Parker faces not more than 10 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine for each count of tampering with a consumer product. If serious bodily injury occurred, she would face not more than 20 years in federal prison. If death of an individual occurs, she would face up to life imprisonment. If convicted of obtaining a controlled substance by deceit, or attempting to do the same, Parker faces not more than 4 years imprisonment, and up to a $250,000 fine for each count.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA OCI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Denver District Attorney’s Office, and the Denver Police Department.
Parker is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Pena.
These charges contained in the indictment are only allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.