Missouri paramedic admits tampering with ambulance narcotics

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri emergency medical technician has pleaded guilty to stealing painkillers from an ambulance and diluting the drugs with water and saline to cover his tracks.

The Joplin Globe reports that 37-year-old James Poole, of Webb City, faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday in federal court in Springfield to a charge of tampering with a consumer product.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Springfield said in a news release that the investigation began earlier this year after paramedics with Mercy Hospital Carthage noticed puncture marks on a fentanyl vial and then drew fentanyl from a vial that didn't contain enough fluid for a full dose.

Another vial of fentanyl showed signs of tampering at Mercy Hospital’s emergency medical services center in Mount Vernon, where the same paramedics from the Carthage hospital also work.

The investigation widened when Mercy Hospital Springfield contacted the Federal Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations regarding 26 fentanyl vials and 43 hydromorphone vials on which signs of tampering had been discovered. Some of the vials’ contents had been replaced with water and saline solutions.

Poole admitted having become an opioid addict following an injury in a traffic accident in December 2018.