AMHERST COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) – A former veterinarian from Madison Heights was sentenced Wednesday to eight months in federal prison after he admitted to stealing opioids back in January, officials say.
From 1994 through 2021, Patrick Gries worked as a veterinarian at VCA Amherst Animal Hospital, according to court documents.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) says the animal hospital maintained supplies of the opioid Dilaudid — also known as hydromorphone — to treat animal patients’ pain following surgeries. As the hospital’s primary surgeon, Gries had full access to the hospital’s supply of hydromorphone.
The department previously told WFXR News that Gries started withdrawing a portion of the highly addictive drug from the vials and injecting it into himself — without a valid prescription — in July 2020. Then, he would replace the stolen hydromorphone with another substance, like saline or butorphanol, and then return the altered narcotic to the hospital inventory.
Earlier this year, 54-year-old Gries pleaded guilty to one count of adulteration of a drug held for sale after shipment in interstate commerce and one count of distribution of a controlled substance without a written prescription, according to the DOJ.
“When health care professionals put the well-being of others at risk, they violate the trust placed in them by the public and will be held accountable. My Office will continue to prioritize these cases throughout the Western District of Virginia,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said in a statement about Gries’ sentencing on Wednesday, June 22.
“Health care professionals, including veterinarians, who take needed medications from their patients not only harm the patients but also put at risk the trust that consumers have in those who provide medical care to their companion animals,” said Special Agent in Charge George Scavdis with the Metro Washington Field Office of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations. “We will continue to investigate and bring to justice those who put the safety and health of pets at risk by tampering with their patients’ medications.”
The FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Diversion Control Division, and Virginia State Police reportedly investigated the case, which was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Baudinet.