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Amherst County Veterinarian Sentenced for Opioid Theft

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Department of Justice
Western District of Virginia 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

LYNCHBURG, Va. – A former veterinarian, who admitted to stealing opioids, was sentenced today to eight months in federal prison.

Patrick Gries, 54, of Madison Heights, Virginia, pleaded guilty in January 2022 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.

“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 today.

“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, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations - Metro Washington Field Office. “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.”

According to court documents, from 1994 through 2021, Gries practiced as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at VCA Amherst Animal Hospital in Amherst County, Virginia. The animal hospital maintained supplies of Dilaudid, an opioid generically known as hydromorphone, primarily for use in treating pain in animal patients following surgeries.

As the hospital’s primary surgeon, Gries had full access to the hospital’s supply of hydromorphone and began withdrawing a portion of the highly addictive drug from the vials and injecting it into himself.  He would replace the stolen hydromorphone with another substance, usually either saline or butorphanol, and then return the altered narcotic back to the hospital inventory.

The Food and Drug Administration - Office of Criminal Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration - Diversion Control Division, and the Virginia State Police investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Baudinet prosecuted the case.

USAO - Virginia, Western

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