Can you really overdose from inhaling fentanyl?
A former MedStar Ambulance paramedic has been sentenced to just over nine years in prison for stealing drugs from an ambulance.
A jury in East St. Louis had previously convicted 44-year-old Jason Laut, of O’Fallon, on 38 counts of a federal indictment following a two-week trial, according to a news release from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. He was charged with wire fraud, falsifying medical records, aggravated identity theft and tampering with a consumer product.
Laut has been in custody since that conviction.
He was accused of changing, altering and falsifying documents between January 2013 and May 2015 to cover up his theft of morphine and fentanyl from the ambulances, the release stated. Specifically, he would alter patient care reports to indicate they were administered drugs when they were not.
He would also claim to administer drugs to patients that didn’t exist and, on at least two occasions, he used the name of a former doctor at Memorial Hospital, the release stated.
“Narcotics boxes on ambulances contain only two vials of fentanyl because they are typically used on only the most severely injured trauma patients,” the release said. “Laut tampered with the fentanyl vials by removing the fentanyl with a syringe and replacing it with saline or some other solution.”
Investigators said they were unable to determine how these altered vials may have affected patients.
“However, at Laut’s sentencing, a representative of Memorial Hospital informed the court that paramedics in the field had reported occasions when the fentanyl they were administering appeared to be ineffective at relieving pain,” the release stated.
By doing replacing the fentanyl with saline, prosecutors say he made his theft almost impossible to detect. In 2015, investigators said that 26 of the 28 vials in MedStar ambulances were found to have been tampered with.
Since that was discovered, officials have changed how they handle the fentanyl boxes. But the release stated before Laut’s crimes were discovered those drugs were “regularly shared among the ambulance companies in the area, which meant that the vials Laut altered were also reintroduced by unsuspecting pharmacists and paramedics onto ambulances owned and operated by companies other than MedStar,” the release stated.
At his trial, prosecutors were able to present 82 tampered vials that were found in active duty ambulances throughout the Southwest EMS Region.
Memorial Hospital and MedStar representatives said that they had to remove the fentanyl from the ambulances for three years because of diversion concerns. A paramedic testified at Laut’s sentencing that over those years he recalled five patients he treated who were allergic to morphine and had to go without pain relief.