Former Hershey Medical Center Research Technologist Pleads Guilty To Making False Statements About Cancer Tests
HARRISBURG – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Floyd Benko, age 62, of Palmyra, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty today before United States District Court Judge Yvette Kane to false statement charges in connection with his performance of flawed genetic diagnostic tests for 124 cancer patients.
According to United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, Benko, a former Research Technologist at the Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, performed gene mutation tests (known as Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR), KRAS gene mutation (KRAS), and BRAF gene mutation (BRAF) assays) for 124 advanced stage cancer patients at the Hershey Medical Center in 2013 and 2014. These genetic tests help physicians diagnose a patient’s particular type of cancer so specifically tailored treatments can be administered to the patient.
Benko failed to perform the assays in the manner called for by Hershey’s standard operating procedures. Subsequent retesting of the patients revealed that 60 of the 124 patients had results discordant with results obtained by two outside laboratories.
Benko admitted to making a false statement to administrators at the Hershey Medical Center on April 11, 2014, about the manner by which he performed the genetic assays. Benko admitted he lied and concealed the fact that he did not follow standard Hershey operating procedures by failing to use a device known as a NanoDrop 2000 photo spectrometer in performing the assays and by failing to preserve the patients’ leftover tissue and DNA samples.
The Hershey Medical Center incurred out of pocket expenses totaling $69,906 for outside laboratory re-testing of all of the affected patients. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Benko agreed to make full restitution to the Medical Center in his amount. No date has yet been scheduled for Benko’s sentencing pending preparation of a pre-sentence report.
The case was investigated by the Harrisburg Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kim Douglas Daniel and Joseph J. Terz.
A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
The maximum penalty for False Statements in Health Care Matters is five years’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.
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