By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged a pharmacy technician who worked at a hospital with making false statements during an investigation related to a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy at the center of a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak in 2012.
Claudio Pontoriero, who worked at Massachusetts General Hospital, was accused in charging documents filed in federal court in Boston with lying to federal agents about why he took money from a sister company of New England Compounding Center.
According to the charging documents, Pontoriero said the $5,000 he received monthly from Ameridose LLC was for consulting services and not in exchange for his influence in picking the company or NECC as a drug supplier for the hospital.
He also falsely told agents with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations in 2015 that he provided consulting services to Ameridose related to its website, according to court papers.
In total, Pontoriero received $355,000 from 2006 to 2012 from Ameridose, which, along with NECC, sold drugs to medical facilities nationally, including the hospital that employed Pontoriero, the court papers said.
Court records did not identify the hospital, but Massachusetts General Hospital confirmed it employed Pontoriero up until April.
The Boston-based hospital said it had been aware of the government’s interest in Pontoriero and was cooperating with authorities.
Pontoriero was charged in a one-count criminal information, a type of charging document usually used by prosecutors in connection with plea deals. It was not clear if Pontoriero, 40, had a plea agreement.
George Vien, Pontoriero’s lawyer, declined to comment.
The case stemmed from an investigation related to Framingham, Massachusetts-based NECC, which according to authorities, produced the mold-tainted steroids at the center of the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.
Prosecutors say that 793 people nationwide were sickened after being injected with the steroids. Of those, 76 people died, prosecutors said.
Federal juries in 2017 convicted Barry Cadden, NECC’s co-founder and former president, and Glenn Chin, its supervisory pharmacist, on racketeering and mail-fraud charges but cleared them of second-degree murder related to 25 patients’ deaths.
Cadden, who was also a co-owner of Ameridose, was sentenced in June 2017 to nine years in prison. Chin was sentenced in January to eight years in prison.
Twelve other people associated with NECC were also charged along with Chin and Cadden in 2014. Three have pleaded guilty. A trial for the remaining nine defendants is scheduled for October.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Peter Cooney)