A former MedStar ambulance paramedic from O’Fallon has been charged in federal court with stealing the powerful and highly addictive painkiller fentanyl from ambulances in the metro-east.
Jason Laut, 39, faces six counts of wire fraud, 29 counts of making false statements and two counts of identity theft. Laut, who worked as a paramedic, supervisor and dispatch manager for the Sparta-based company, allegedly stole painkillers and falsely reported they had been administered to patients. His administrative status allowed him to alter reports generated during and after ambulance calls for service, according to the charges.
Laut also allegedly used two doctors’ identities to authorize dispensing the drugs, prosecutors allege.
Paramedics are legally allowed to dispense controlled substances, including painkillers, as part of their duties. They are required to fill out a log of all narcotics dispensed or disposed of. The log goes to a pharmacist, who replaces the narcotics and provides a new log. The log “is the only record that accounts for the use or destruction of controlled substances,” making it critical to tracking the use or misuse of painkillers, according to the charges.
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The reports of theft, tampering, misuse and abuse of the controlled substance and morphine were first investigated in the region in January 2013. A state regulator ordered the removal of the powerful painkiller in October 2015 from ambulances in the region after an investigation by the FBI and local authorities began. State regulators ordered EMS providers to submit documentation of every instance where fentanyl was administered to patients between May 25, 2013 and May 25, 2015.
During the inspection, only eight intact vials of fentanyl were found in MedStar ambulances, while 55 vials showed evidence of tampering, according to the charges.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Wilkerson ordered Laut be released on $10,000 unsecured bond, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Wyatt. The judge also ordered drug testing for Laut while he is out on bond. Laut’s travel is restricted to the Southern District of Illinois, and he is prohibited from contacting people connected to the case.
Wire fraud and making false statements are punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 followed by up to three years of supervised release. Aggravated identity theft is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 followed by one year of supervised release.
A trial is tentatively set to begin in East St. Louis on March 27.