VA Employee Charged With Stealing Ventilators, Selling them on EBay

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Seattle Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Seattle Veterans Affairs Medical Center. (Dept. of Veterans Affairs)

A respiratory therapist at the Seattle Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been charged with stealing ventilators and other medical equipment used to treat COVID-19 and other diseases and selling them on eBay.

Gene Wamsley, 41, of Bonney Lake, Washington, allegedly sold three bronchoscopes, five ventilators and other respiratory equipment on the online auction site this year, after bronchoscopes and ventilators were reported missing from the hospital, according to the Justice Department.

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Wamsley was charged Tuesday with theft of government property, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

"Right now respiratory support equipment is critical in medical care for those suffering with COVID-19 infections. To steal and sell equipment needed to care for our veterans is a shocking betrayal," U.S. Attorney Brian Moran said in a statement.

An attorney working for the firm representing Wamsley declined to comment, citing office policy to not discuss current clients or cases.

Attempts to reach Wamsley were not successful.

Wamsley was placed on leave from VA June 9 -- the day law enforcement executed a search warrant on his home. Medical supplies and eBay sales records were seized in the search, according to the Justice Department.

The Seattle VA Medical Center falls under the VA Puget Sound Health System, which has had 147 cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

The equipment allegedly sold by Wamsley is used to treat intensive care patients and others suffering from severe respiratory diseases including COVID-19, influenza, pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

According to Justice Department officials, the investigation began in January when the medical center reported that two bronchoscopes were missing from the facility. A third went missing in April. VA employees noticed that two bronchoscopes were listed on eBay from a seller in Bonney Lake.

Further investigation found that Wamsely sold five ventilators on the site in March and April, the same time three ventilators went missing from the Seattle VA. EBay records also showed that other respiratory support equipment was sold on the site by an account linked to the accused, according to a Justice Department release.

The case is being investigated by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, 17,787 veterans in the VA health system have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 1,493 have died. Currently, 1,793 veterans are being treated in VA for the coronavirus. The number of active cases has risen steadily in June by roughly 300 cases.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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