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VA employee stole coronavirus ventilators and sold them on eBay, DOJ charges

Spc. Albertico Saldana-Figveroa, with the 341st Medical Logistics Command, monitors the calibration of a ventilator, at the 99th Readiness Division (Medical) Equipment Concentration Site, Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst, New Jersey, April 20, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jahkeem Folks)
June 24, 2020

An employee for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington has been charged with stealing medical supplies meant to help coronavirus patients and sold those supplies on eBay, according to Department of Justice charges announced last week.

Gene Wamsley, 41, a Respiratory Therapist at the Seattle Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) stole respiratory support equipment, including ventilators meant to help patients suffering from coronavirus related illness to breathe. Wamsley has been charged with theft of government property, according to a June 17, DOJ press release.

“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 T. Moran said in the DOJ announcement.

The criminal investigation in Wamsley’s case began in January when the VAMC reported two bronchoscopes missing from the hospital. A third bronchoscope was reported missing in April.

Staff at the medical center reportedly noticed bronchoscopes listed on eBay after the ones at the medical center went missing.

Upon reviewing the eBay sales records, investigators determined the e-commerce account belonged to Wamsley. Those sales records have led investigators to allege Wamsley sold five ventilators between March and April.

“EBay records reveal a variety of other respiratory support equipment sold by the account linked to WAMSLEY.  Administrators at VAMC confirmed the items were used in the respiratory therapy department,” the DOJ press release states.

Law enforcement executed a search warrant at Wamsley’s home on June 9. While executing the search, authorities seized medical supplies and eBay sales records.

Theft of government property is punishable by up to a 10-year prison term.

The accelerating outbreak of the coronavirus, Covid-19, led to concerns about there being enough supplies like ventilators.

President Donald Trump and other state and local officials announced social distancing recommendations and measures in March and April in an effort to slow disease transmission rates and avoid overwhelming the U.S. healthcare system.

Wamsley’s case is being investigated by the Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Cecelia Gregson.

There have been 19,680 coronavirus cases recorded through VA health system, according to a VA fact sheet updated on Wednesday. Of those VA coronavirus cases, more than 2,700 remain active while more than 15,300 have recovered. The VA has recorded 1,550 cases within its health system.

The U.S. has recorded more than 2,366,000 coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus case tracking map. Of those U.S. coronavirus cases, there have been more than 121,700 fatalities.