Respiratory therapist sentenced for stealing COVID equipment

January 12, 2021 GMT

SEATTLE (AP) — A respiratory therapist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been sentenced to three months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing a ventilator and other medical equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic and selling it for personal gain.

Gene Wamsley, 42, of Bonney Lake, must remain on nine months of home confinement once he’s released from prison under the sentencing ordered Monday by U.S. District Judge James Robart.

“This is an extremely serious offense, quite independent of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was exploiting patients,” Robart said during the hearing.


U.S. Attorney Brian Moran said the fraud impeded efforts to care for the elderly and veterans.

“Stealing money is bad enough, but stealing equipment needed for life-saving therapies shocks the conscience,” he said in a statement.

Officials launched an investigation in January 2020 when the medical center reported two bronchoscopes, used for examining a patient’s airway, were missing. A third bronchoscope was reported missing three months later.

Wamsley admitted stealing the three machines and selling them on eBay. Investigators also found that Wamsley stole a $9,950 respirator and sold it on eBay for $6,000. He also stole ventilators.

Wamsley was ordered to pay $132,291 in restitution to cover the loss of the thefts, prosecutors said.