Tompkins County Medical Practice Pays $70,377 to Resolve False Claims Act and Controlled Substance Act Allegations Relating to Opioid and Benzodiazepine Prescriptions
ALBANY, NEW YORK – Nathan Baum, age 30, of East Greenbush, New York, pled guilty today to tampering with a consumer product and obtaining controlled substances by deception and subterfuge.
The announcement was made by United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian; Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey G. Hughes of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, Northeast Field Office; and Acting Special Agent in Charge Spencer E. Morrison of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations, New York Field Office.
Baum, a licensed practical nurse who worked at the hospice ward of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Albany, improperly accessed syringes that contained oxycodone hydrochloride. These syringes were stored in locked containers, which Baum was able to access using his individually assigned password. Between April 8, 2014 and May 16, 2014, Baum removed the oxycodone hydrochloride from at least 25 syringes and replaced it with haloperidol.
Oxycodone hydrochloride, a Schedule II controlled substance, is a highly addictive narcotic analgesic used to treat moderate to severe pain and is to be prescribed only when medically required. Haloperidol, often marketed as Haldol, is an anti-psychotic medication used to treat certain mental/mood disorders and to treat uncontrolled movements or agitation.
“To satisfy his addiction, the defendant stole pain medicine intended for veterans in hospice care and tried to hide his crime by replacing that medicine with anti-psychotic medicine that would not have eased their pain,” stated U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian. “In committing this terrible crime, Baum betrayed his patients and their loved ones, the nursing profession, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
“Mr. Baum abused his position as a nurse with the VA for his own personal gain at the expense of his patients,” stated Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey G. Hughes of the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, Northeast Field Office. “The VAOIG will continue to work diligently with its law enforcement partners and U.S. Attorney’s Offices to apprehend those who victimize our nation’s veterans.”
“FDA oversees the U.S. supply of medicines to ensure that they are safe and effective, and those who knowingly give the wrong medicines to patients put their health at risk,” said Spencer E. Morrison, Acting Special Agent in Charge, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ New York Field Office. “Our office will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who violate laws designed to protect the public health.”
Baum’s tampering was discovered in late May 2014, when his supervisor noticed that he was slurring his speech and his pupils were pinpoint – signs of controlled substance abuse. When federal agents inspected the locked container Baum was allowed to access, they found that three sets of oxycodone hydrochloride syringes had been tampered with. In an interview, Baum admitted that he was addicted to painkillers; that he used oxycodone hydrochloride that was intended for veterans; and that he replaced the oxycodone hydrochloride in some syringes with Haldol.
Senior U.S. District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn is scheduled to sentence Baum on June 22, 2016. Tampering with a consumer product carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of
up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years. Obtaining controlled substances by deception and subterfuge carries a maximum sentence of 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on a combination of factors including the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and relevant statutes.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General and the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth R. Rabe.