FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 9, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. - An Iraq war veteran was arrested this morning for allegedly giving heroin to a fellow veteran at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital who died of an overdose, and for obstructing the investigation into the death, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Ryan Krieger, 28, a former Marine and in-patient resident at the post-traumatic stress disorder ward of the VA Medical Center in Lyons, N.J., was charged by Complaint with distribution of heroin and obstruction. He made his initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor in Newark federal court.
According to the Complaint:
On July 1, 2011, Krieger and the overdose victim, identified as “J.Z.,” called a taxi and snuck out of the VA Hospital to buy heroin in Paterson, N.J. They withdrew $500 from J.Z.’s bank account at an ATM machine, and Krieger purchased the heroin from a drug dealer he knew in Paterson. When Krieger and J.Z. returned to the hospital with the heroin, they were joined by another in-patient resident, identified as “R.C.,” and the three of them used the heroin in J.Z.’s room.
In the early hours of July 2, 2011, Krieger, J.Z., and R.C. were continuing to use heroin in J.Z.’s room when J.Z. collapsed and lost consciousness. The Complaint alleges that neither Krieger nor R.C. notified anybody at the VA Hospital. Hospital staff discovered J.Z.’s body in his room the following afternoon. He had died of a heroin overdose. Special agents with VA’s Office of the Inspector General (“VA-OIG”) began an investigation into the circumstances of his death.
Krieger allegedly lied to VA-OIG investigators about his activities on the night of J.Z.’s death, and only admitted his role upon being confronted with physical evidence, including a surveillance video from the ATM machine in Paterson. While he agreed to cooperate with the investigation, he allegedly told an individual at the VA hospital months later that he had administered the heroin to J.Z., and that when J.Z. appeared to overdose, Krieger did not seek help, but propped J.Z. up in his bed to create the appearance that J.Z. had taken the heroin himself and overdosed by himself.
The drug distribution count with which Krieger is charged is punishable by a maximum potential prison term of 20 years and a $1 million fine. The obstruction charge is punishable by a maximum potential prison term of 20 years and a $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss caused.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey G. Hughes, with the investigation leading to today’s arrest.
The government is represented by Scott B. McBride of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit.
Defense counsel: Lisa M. Mack Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark, N.J.