A man who worked as a paramedic and EMT has pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing fentanyl and morphine and replacing the drugs with saline solution.
Prosecutors say Zachary McCleary, from Springfield, pleaded guilty to two counts of tampering with a consumer product.
From 2015 to 2018, McCleary worked as an EMT for Grove, Oklahoma, Emergency Medical Service, as a paramedic for Cox Health in Springfield, as a paramedic for Mercy Health in Carthage and as a paramedic with Barton County Emergency Medical Service.
Investigators say 18 separate event reports were filed by people who received medical services from Barton County EMS.
Every report stated the opioid drugs were administered to ease their pain, but they continued to experience pain.
The Food and Drug Administration-Office of Criminal Investigations opened an investigation in February 2018, on the repeated theft and dilution of opioid drugs throughout southwest Missouri.
Agents learned McCleary was employed while the various opioid drugs were tampered with.
The drugs stolen and replaced consisted of fentanyl, morphine, hydrocodone and ketamine.
McCleary could get a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole.