FISHERS, Ind. – Authorities in Indiana arrested a man on Monday after reports that he stole fentanyl in several counties while working as a paramedic.
Jason Howard, 41, was taken into custody following the result of a probe kicked off more than a month ago, Fox 59 reported.
Investigators began looking into the thefts at the end of May when Greenwood Fire officials reportedly realized that someone had altered containers of fentanyl that were stored in two ambulances.
An examination of the medical vehicles belonging to Seals Ambulance Service across the state showed that 34 vials of fentanyl had been tampered with in five different counties, dating back to March.
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“When this case was given to the Indiana State Police, and we started uncovering the facts, it became very alarming to us,” Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine told the outlet. “Regardless of who the suspect is, we’re going to investigate it to the fullest and carry out the investigation so that we can prevent this from getting into the wrong hands.”
Authorities were reportedly able to trace the thefts back to Howard by using the company’s schedule.
Investigators say Howard wrote a confession saying he took the fentanyl and replaced it with saline.
Indiana State Police said Howard told authorities he would withdraw the drug and swap out its contents with saline, according to Fox 59. Police said the stolen fentanyl was for personal use and Howard would administer it to his side for a mass.
Perrine told the outlet that this fentanyl is intended to be used during “an emergency situation by emergency personnel.” In this instance, however, “those protocols were broken,” he said.
In a statement to Fox 59, the Tennessee-based Seals Ambulance Service said Howard did not work for the company anymore and they “encouraged him to seek help for his addiction.”
A spokesperson for Seals Ambulance Service says Howard passed a criminal background check before he was hired. The company issued this statement:
Last month, Seals Ambulance’s internal audit and security procedures uncovered a possible drug diversion within its operations.
Based upon internal investigation, the company identified the individual responsible.
The individual is no longer an employee of Seals Ambulance, and we encouraged him to seek help for his addiction.
Howard was taken to Hancock County Jail on charges for felony drug possession and misdemeanor theft, Fox 59 reported.
As of now, only the Hancock County prosecutor has filed formal charges against Howard. It’s unclear if or when the other counties will follow suit.