A former surgery technician who pleaded not guilty Friday to federal charges of stealing medicine at a Colorado hospital was found passed out at a facility in Arizona and walked out of an operating room in California with a syringe filled with a powerful painkiller, an investigator said.
Prosecutors argued that his history of moving from hospital to hospital and lying about his past to steal drugs showed 28-year-old Rocky Allen could not be trusted to show up for court dates and should remain in custody pending trial.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristen Mix agreed during a preliminary hearing that Allen suffered from "a considerable drug problem," but said she'd heard no evidence that he had set out to hurt others. She set bond at $25,000 and also ordered as a condition of release that he stay at a halfway house, get drug treatment and surrender his passport.
Allen is charged with tampering with a consumer product and obtaining a controlled substance by deceit.
His attorney, Timothy O'Hara, said the 28-year-old Allen is a Navy veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. O'Hara said Allen served as a medical worker in Afghanistan and that he started using drugs after witnessing horrors there. Allen faced criminal proceedings in the military similar to those he faces in Colorado, O'Hara said without elaborating. O'Hara had asked that Allen be allowed to stay with family in Idaho -- he was raised in Boise -- pending trial, but Mix ordered him not to leave Colorado.
Allen, shackled, dressed in a brown T-shirt with his dark blonde hair and beard closely cropped, sat silently next to O'Hara during the hearing. He fidgeted occasionally.
Christy Berg, a criminal investigator for the Food and Drug Administration, testified Friday as prosecutors made their case for him to be denied bail. Berg said that in recent years Allen had failed a drug test that was ordered by his employers after he was found passed out John C. Lincoln Medical Center in Phoenix; was discovered hunting for syringes filled with drugs at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale, Arizona; and took a syringe filled with painkiller from an operating room at Scripps Health in La Jolla, California, leaving only saline for the patient. An investigation is under way about his conduct while employed at Northwest Hospital in Seattle.
Allen was fired after his drug problems were discovered. Berg did not say whether any of his previous employers had contacted law enforcement.
He did not mention the hospitals that fired him on the resume he submitted to Swedish Medical Center in the Denver suburb of Englewood. He had been working for five months when he was spotted taking a syringe filled with painkillers from an operating room while doctors and other medical workers were tending to a patient on Jan. 22.