Florida: Fired Mayo Employee Indicted After Hepatitis Spread Through Reused Syringes

A federal grand jury has indicted a former employee of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, who could face life in prison for an alleged drug-theft scheme that reportedly caused five patients to contact hepatitis C virus (HCV), one of whom has died.

Testing done on 3,500 patients found two more HCV infections that "may be related to the former employee's action," according to a statement Mayo released Tuesday. Those individuals are receiving follow-up care.

The FBI, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Food and Drug Administration and Florida Department of Financial Services cooperated in the investigation. The man is charged with five counts of tampering with a consumer product resulting in death or serious bodily harm and five counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

The indictment states that the man was employed as a radiology technician at Memorial Hospital Jacksonville from mid-1992 through October 2004, and at the Mayo Clinic from October 2004 through August 2010. He is alleged to have injected himself with the powerful painkiller Fentanyl, put new needles on the syringes, refilled them with saline, and returned them for use on patients.

Mayo fired the technician. The arrest report states that the man acknowledged he was an addict and stole drugs at work starting in 2006. In August, his attorney said the man did not know he had HCV.

Mayo says it has toughened its narcotics security measures and expanded its drug-screening efforts for job applicants.