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News / Clark County News

Former paramedic sentenced for stealing, using painkiller

By John Branton
Published: January 22, 2011, 12:00am

Bradley Curtis Allen, a fired Camas Fire Department captain and paramedic, has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for stealing the narcotic painkiller fentanyl citrate from the department for his own use, and endangering heart-attack victims over a period of three years.

Allen, 60, had been working for the department for 22 years when, last May 7, paramedics who were taking inventory on an ambulance found that an injectable vial containing the drug had been tampered with, according to a bulletin from Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.

An investigation showed that all of the department’s fentanyl was missing from its storage areas.

Paramedics use small doses of fentanyl, mainly to relieve chest pains during heart attacks. It’s preferred to morphine, which causes more side effects, an official said.

Besides being sentenced to 27 months in prison for product tampering Friday, in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Allen has been ordered to serve three years of supervision after he’s released. He also was ordered to pay about $8,000 in restitution for the cost of the drug, Langlie said.

Allen is not currently in custody. Instead, Langlie said, the federal Bureau of Prisons will notify him when and where to report to begin serving his time.

Stealing the department’s fentanyl was an abuse of the public’s trust, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton said at sentencing.

The bulletin said Assistant United States Attorney Patricia Lally, in asking the judge for a prison sentence, said Allen’s actions endangered members of the the public who were suffering with medical emergencies.

“Bradley Allen’s on-going illegal and dangerous conduct put the public at risk. The risks associated with filling Fentanyl carpujects with water and placing them in an ambulance were serious: first, a person in need of emergency pain medicine would not be treated, second, that person would have been injected, instead, with an unsterile solution and third, the emergency hospital staff would have received inaccurate information about the patient’s initial treatment (that pain medicine had been delivered when, in fact, it had not).”

As officers with the Camas Police Department conducted their initial investigation last May, Allen told them he’d been stealing and using the drug for three years, the bulletin said.

The investigation was continued by the Office of Criminal Investigations of the Food and Drug Administration.

Camas Fire Chief Leo Leon said he attended Friday’s sentencing. He said department officials, when they learned of the thefts in May, were disappointed.

Officials quickly took action to tighten security of the three controlled painkillers paramedics have, Leon said.

The department spent a few thousand dollars on new storage containers that have keypad locks and separate entry codes for each paramedic. When the new containers are opened, a computer makes time-stamp records for documentation.

Two officials also are making more daily checks of painkiller stocks, Leon said.

“It’s improved the system,” Leon said. “It’s just too bad it had to happen that way.”

Before being sentenced Friday, Leon said, “Brad took full responsibility for his actions.

“He apologized to the firefighters, to the city and to his family for all the embarrassment and problems it caused.”

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Leon added: “The judge said to Brad that it might feel like the worst day of his life. He said this is a starting point. Take advantage of it and make your life better.”

Allen has been taking some form of drug and alcohol treatment or counseling, Leon said.

Before the thefts were discovered, Leon said department members liked and respected the veteran captain and paramedic.

“We miss Brad, but it is what it is. I think we’re all relieved. It just closes the chapter.”

Spokeswoman Langlie with the U.S. Attorney’s Office said similar cases in federal court in Seattle have involved two nurses in Northwest Washington.

One pleaded guilty in November to stealing morphine from prescription vials and replacing it with tapwater, and using the morphine herself. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

In November 2009, another nurse was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for stealing the narcotic painkiller demerol and using it while working at a plastic surgery center in Bellevue.

John Branton: 360-735-4513 or john.branton.@columbian.com.