EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – A former paramedic supervisor in Illinois was convicted of fraud and falsifying narcotics logs after he broke tamper-proof packaging and replaced fentanyl with water and saline.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney for Southern Illinois, 40-year old Jason Laut of O’Fallon, Illinois was found guilty of 38 counts by a jury. Counts included wire fraud, making false statements on narcotics logs, tampering with consumer product fentanyl and identity theft.
Evidence showed Laut attempted to conceal the theft of fentanyl and morphine, the release said. Both controlled substances were taken from drug boxes kept in ambulances in the event of giving aid to those who would require the use of either substance in emergency situations.
In addition to stealing fentanyl and morphine, evidence showed Laut falsified narcotics logs given to Memorial Hospital. These logs were used to have a written record of uses for both controlled substances.
The Department of Justice also found Laut used the name of a former doctor at Memorial Hospital to receive additional doses of fentanyl and morphine.
The case first landed on Sparta Police Officer Ralph Jones’ desk several years ago. He said Sparta-based MedStar Ambulance contacted police to investigate when the company realized somebody was tampering with fentanyl on the ambulances.
“It’s very close to home,” said Jones. He added that he knew the defendant through their work as first responders. “This is a small community and it's truly heartbreaking that it had to happen.”
Sparta Police worked with multiple other agencies on the investigation: FBI, Illinois Police, and the DEA, according to a press release from federal prosecutors.
Jones said it was a successful partnership, but a very difficult investigation sorting through all the logs. The paper trail, he said, was the key to finding a suspect.
“This was probably the most complicated case of my 22-year career,” Jones said. “I have never seen a case that had more twists and turns in it.”
Most alarming, Jones said, was the vials that were tampered with remained on ambulances. Investigators worried who may have unknowingly used them later.
“It was awful. That someone the public puts trust in… would contemplate that -- to go through the extremes to hide his crimes, to create fake people and things of that nature, tampering with what they thought was a tamper-proof top,” Jones said.
“The potential of having those tampered vials hit the public, [given to] someone that is in desperate need of pain relief from a motor vehicle accident,” Jones suggested, as an example. “[Laut] cared more about himself and feeding that habit then he did the public.”
In all, Laut was charged with 29 counts of making false statements on narcotics logs, six counts of wire fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft and one count of tampering with fentanyl.
He will be sentenced in March.
Belleville Memorial Hospital, which serves as the resources hospital for Southwest Illinois EMS Regional System and monitors the activity of many ambulance services in the Metro East offered a statement by email after Laut’s conviction.
“The Southwest Illinois EMS System strives to ensure the safety of its patients as well as the safety of its EMS providers. Monitoring of narcotic utilization is part of the ongoing process and as such Southwest Illinois EMS System staff spent a great deal of time working with multiple law enforcement agencies and the FBI dating back to 2014 in this investigation leading to the conviction of Mr. Laut.”