VA hospital aide guilty in prescription drug case

He used job to split painkiller with patients

April 18, 2002|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

A former physician's assistant at Perry Point Veterans Affairs Medical Center pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to illegally obtaining the restricted painkiller oxycodone by writing prescriptions for patients at the Cecil County facility and then splitting the drugs with them.

Thaddeus J. Kuszmar, 50, of Rising Sun also pleaded guilty to falsely altering his Navy discharge papers to reflect service in Vietnam, so that he could receive VA benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Kuszmar never served in the war, prosecutors said in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Kuszmar worked as a physician's assistant at the Perry Point facility from Jan. 1, 2000, until his suspension.

There he met veterans - some of whom were homeless - who were participating in a hospital-sponsored program that treated them for substance abuse problems or post-traumatic stress syndrome, according to prosecutors.

On Jan. 28 last year, Kuszmar applied for and received a registration number from the Drug Enforcement Administration that permitted him, under supervision of a licensed physician, to prescribe controlled substances.

Less than three weeks later, prosecutors said, Kuszmar began writing prescriptions for oxycodone.

Soliciting the help of at least four patients to help him, Kuszmar wrote more than 30 oxycodone prescriptions in their names, in addition to three in his own.

For each patient, prosecutors said, Kuszmar would write the prescription in their name, go to the pharmacy with them, pay for the prescription and split the painkiller with the patient.

He also wrote prescriptions using names of his family members, prosecutors said.

Kuszmar got the veterans he solicited to trust him by fabricating stories of his military service, telling them that he had served in Vietnam and had been awarded commendations for his service, prosecutors said.

He faces a maximum penalty of 21 years in prison and a fine of more than $1,000,000. Sentencing is scheduled for June 20.

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