A medical worker at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Seattle is headed to prison for stealing equipment needed for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) patients and selling it on eBay.
Gene Wamsley, 42, admitted to stealing ventilators and other respiratory equipment from the hospital where he worked as a respiratory therapist who was involved in, get this, the care of COVID-19 patients. And as prosecutors noted in a sentencing memo, Wamsley’s scam was “rather confounding” since he was involved in caring for ill patients suffering from the deadly virus and was, prosecutors wrote, “an eyewitness to [their] tremendous suffering.”
According to court records, Wamsley’s thievery began sometime around Jan. 2020 when the hospital reported missing two bronchoscopes used for examining a patients’ airway. Then a third was lost in April 2020. Wamsley admitted selling the three scopes, valued at more than $100,000, to a Florida resident over eBay for the bargain price of $15,750.
Wamsley also stole a $9,950 respirator and sold it on eBay to an Ohio man for $6,000. All told, Wamsley sold five ventilators online, three of which were stolen from the VA. And during a search of his home in June, investigators seized a fourth bronchoscope and a $6,000 sleep apnea device also lifted from the VA.
“This type of fraud strikes at the heart of our efforts to care for our elderly — especially our veterans,” said U.S. Attorney Brian Moran. “Stealing money is bad enough, but stealing equipment needed for life-saving therapies shocks the conscience.”
He was sentenced on Monday to three months in prison and nine months of home confinement, according to a Justice Department press release, and ordered to pay $132,291 in restitution.