By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Owners and employees of a defunct drug compounding firm have been arrested on charges ranging from second degree murder to racketeering in an investigation of a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak that sickened 751 patients and killed 64.
Arrested Wednesday in the Greater Boston area were Barry Cadden, Gregory Conigliaro, Carla Conigliaro and her husband Douglas, all part owners of the New England Compounding Center, the Massachusetts firm blamed for the 2012 fatal outbreak.
Cadden and Glenn Chin, the former NECC chief pharmacist, were charged with second degree murder in the deaths of some of the victims.
Ten other people connected with NECC were also charged, according to a 73 page 131 count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury this week.
The indictment for the first time discloses that health facilities in even more states than previously reported received drugs from NECC that may not have have been sterile. The additional drugs include cardioplegia, a compound used to slow the heart during surgery. The additional drugs were sent to health care facilities in states from California to Massachusetts.
The sudden arrests follow the disclosure that Gregory Conigliaro last month transferred more than a million dollars of real estate he owned to his wife for a fraction of the assessed value. U.S. Justice Department officials declined to comment this week when asked whether they were aware of the transfers.
The indictment seeks a court order to seize real estate and other assets of the defendants under a forfeiture statute. It includes everything from a late model BMW to jewelry to a sailboat.
Mail fraud charges already had been brought against Glenn Chin, who was the lead pharmacist for NECC. His wife Kathy was named in the new indictment.
The 2012 outbreak was caused, state and federal health officials have concluded, by fungus tainted methylprednisolone acetate injected into the victims at health facilities across the country. Particularly hard hit were patients in Tennessee, Michigan, Indiana and Virginia.
The indictment lists seven victims in Tennessee, including Kentucky Judge Eddie Lovelace, and eight in Michigan who died in the outbreak.
Mark Chalos, a Nashville attorney representing some of the victims said, "these
arrests are a significant step toward achieving justice for the
families who have had loved ones sickened or killed," but adding "There is still
much work to be done."
Gerard Stranch, who also represents Tennessee victims, said he was hopeful the indictments would lead to an increase in funding available to victims. Thus far about $135 million has been gathered by the trustee overseeing the NECC bankruptcy.