Ex-medical technician indicted in hepatitis C outbreak
WASHINGTON — A nomadic medical technician who held hospital jobs from Arizona to New England has been indicted in connection with a hepatitis C outbreak that infected more than 30 patients at a New Hampshire hospital and exposed thousands of others in Pennsylvania, Maryland and other states.
David M. Kwiatkowski, a 33-year-old former radiology technician, was charged Wednesday by a federal grand jury with seven counts of tampering with a consumer product and seven counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud, the Justice Department said Thursday. Infected with the life-threatening virus, he is accused of stealing hospital syringes, using them on himself and placing them out for use on hospital patients.
Kwiatkowski has carried the disease since at least June 2010. When he was found in a Holiday Inn room in Boxborough, Mass., this summer, officials say, officers discovered six bottles of medication and loose pills.
Kwiatkowski was drunk, disheveled and confused, and had left a suicide note to a friend, according to police reports. “Please call [her] and let her know I passed away,” he is quoted as saying in the note. “Tell her I couldn’t handle this stress anymore.”
He was taken to a hospital in Worcester, Mass., and was arraigned in his bed next to FBI agents, lawyers and a federal judge from Boston. His defense attorney, James G. Reardon Jr., said, “He was quite sick.”
Kwiatkowski faces up to 98 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
A hospital in Pittsburgh has sent letters to 2,000 patients warning that Kwiatkowski might have infected them, and four hospitals in Maryland are testing 1,700 patients.
More than 30 tested positive for hepatitis C at Exeter Hospital in Exeter, N.H. “This has been a difficult time for our patients and the community,” the 100-bed hospital said on its website.
Marcie DiFede, an FBI special agent in Portsmouth, N.H., said in a court affidavit that Kwiatkowski was raised in Michigan and in 2007 began traveling the country as a contract lab technician in six states, including Arizona, Kansas and Georgia. Some stints lasted just 13 weeks.
DiFede said Kwiatkowski “often told stories about himself,” claiming he played college baseball in Michigan, that his fiancee died “under tragic circumstances” and that he was fighting cancer.
At Exeter Hospital, co-workers said he was “sweating” with “bloodshot eyes” and appeared to be “on something,” DiFede said. Or that he came to work with a “red face, red eyes and white foam around his mouth.” His arms carried “fresh track marks, “ DiFede said.
She said Kwiatkowski injected himself with syringes filled with Fentanyl, an anti-pain medicine for cancer, which tainted the needles with hepatitis C. He then filled the syringes with saline for hospital use, she said.
DiFede said Kwiatkowski had denied tampering with drugs but also told authorities, “I’m more concerned about myself, my own well-being. That’s all I’m really concerned about.”
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