Three Veterans Affairs (VA) employees have been accused of stealing drugs from a Little Rock VA hospital. Their names are Alisha Pagan of Mabelvale (33), Nikita Neal of Little Rock (42), and Satishkumar Patel of North Little Rock (44).
On February 8, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Christopher Thyer indicted the VA employees for conspiring to steal prescriptions drugs, including opioids. According to Thyer, the indictment was a result of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (VAOIG) investigation in June 2016.
Thyer stated that this case was a good example of government employees using their position not only to steal from taxpayers, but also to poison communities with dangerous drugs.
The investigation revealed that the three had taken part in the illegal scheme, and stole prescription drugs from John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital in order to sell them on streets. The investigation found out Patel used his VA access to the web portal of the hospital’s supplier to order about 14,000 Cialis and Viagra pills, about 7,000 hydrocodone and oxycodone pills, and more than 300 ounces of promethazine with codeine syrup. Investigators said that those items cost the VA about $77,000. Their total value on the street is more than $160,000. Patel is also suspected of making falsified payment invoices.
It is hard to tell if pain medications are counterfeit or if they even have an active substance when they are obtained on the street. With the recent rise in opioid addiction, illegal dispensing became a huge issue. The best way to avoid adverse effects and serious health consequences is to get a consultation from a primary care physician first and then get the prescription medications from the nearest pharmacy, or order them online from a certified pharmacy. One of the online pharmacies was designed especially for U.S. veterans. Veterans could get safe, quick, and convenient access to their prescription medications at My HealtheVet Pharmacy.
According to DEA and VAOIG, Patel was distributing oxycodone and hydrocodone pills to Pagan. Pagan was a pharmacy technician, and allegedly distributed some part of those drugs to pharmacy technician student trainee Neal. To discover these relationships, investigators included controlled deliveries of oxycodone at the direction of law enforcement.
Patel, Neal and Pagan have been charged with conspiracy to steal the prescription medications, as well as conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and hydrocodone. Pagan faced one additional count of possession with intent to deliver oxycodone. Patel faced four counts of the same charge.
If investigators prove the three guilty, they could be punished by up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and about three years supervised release for conspiracy to steal government property. For conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute hydrocodone and oxycodone, the three could be punished by up to 20 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine and up to three years supervised release.
It is important to understand that the indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans Hospital reacted immediately to ensure its patients’ safety was not affected by the illegal actions of the three VA employees. At the moment, one of them is on indefinite suspension, and two others are no longer employed by Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System (CAVHS).
Medical director Dr. Margie Scott described their behavior as unethical, inappropriate and criminal. She added that they would not tolerate such behavior and would continue to work with authorities.
Matthew R. Barden, assistant special agent in charge of the Little Rock DEA district office, said the abuse of prescription drugs such as hydrocodone and oxycodone is still a significant problem in the community. He added that for the safety of U.S. citizens, the DEA would continue to target the illegal diversion of those pharmaceutical products, which have resulted in the destruction of individuals’ lives and torn apart their families. Barden called the situation when health care professionals are dispensing dangerous drugs illegally “egregious”. He ensured that the DEA would continue to work with the Department of VAOIG to hold health care providers accountable for the harm they caused.