David Kwiatkowski agrees plea deal after admitting he had been stealing drugs since 2002 and was ‘killing a lot of people’
A hospital technician in the US infected dozens of people with hepatitis C by secretly injecting himself with the painkillers they were supposed to receive and refilling the contaminated syringes with saline solution.
The traveling medical worker told investigators he had been stealing drugs for more than a decade and was “killing a lot of people”, according to a plea agreement filed on Monday that would send him to prison for 30 to 40 years.
David Kwiatkowski, who has been jailed since his arrest in July 2012, is accused of stealing painkiller syringes from the cardiac catheterisation lab of Exeter hospital in New Hampshire, leaving them tainted with his blood when he refilled them with saline.
He has agreed to plead guilty to the 14 federal drug theft and tampering charges he faced in exchange for a lighter sentence. Had he been convicted at trial he could have been sentenced to up to 98 years behind bars.
Thirty-two patients in New Hampshire have been diagnosed with the strain of hepatitis C carried by Kwiatkowski, who worked at 18 hospitals in seven states before being hired in New Hampshire in 2011. There have been seven cases in Maryland, six in Kansas and one in Pennsylvania. One of the Kansas patients has died and hepatitis C, a blood-borne viral infection that can cause liver disease and chronic health issues, played a “contributing role”, the plea agreement said.
The plea agreement includes details of an interview Kwiatkowski gave to investigators in New Hampshire after his arrest in which he said he knew he had been diagnosed in 2010 but continued to “swap out” syringes of the painkiller fentanyl. He said he had been stealing drugs since 2002 and estimated he had swapped syringes at least 50 times in New Hampshire, at least 30 times in Georgia and more than 20 times in Kansas. Under the plea deal Kwiatkowski would avoid criminal charges in the latter two states.
Asked if anyone helped him divert drugs in Exeter, Kwiatkowski said: “It was all me.” He then added: “And I’m going to kill a lot of people out of this,” the plea agreement states. Asked to clarify his comment, he replied: “I’m killing a lot of people.”
Kwiatkowski, who grew up in Michigan, was sent by staffing agencies to hospitals around the country, usually for temporary jobs. In announcing federal drug charges last year, US attorney John Kacavas called him a “serial infector”.
Kwiatkowski’s attorneys did not immediately respond to emails or a phone message left at their office on Monday night. A hearing on the plea agreement is set for Wednesday.