Court

A 42-year-old Bonney Lake man has been sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty to stealing a ventilator and other medical supplies from the VA hospital in Seattle.

U.S. District Judge James L. Robart sentenced Gene Wamsley on Monday to three months in prison and nine months of home confinement for theft of government property. Wamsley also was ordered to pay restitution of $132,291, the value of the equipment he stole.

According to a sentencing memorandum filed by Wamsley's attorneys, he has paid $6,000 of the restitution since the guilty plea was entered Oct. 5.

Prosecutors said Wamsley, a former respiratory therapist at the VA Medical Center in Seattle, was directly involved in the care of COVID-19 patients during the pandemic.

"His decision to steal respiratory therapy devices for personal monetary gain is rather confounding as he was an eyewitness to the tremendous suffering of those inflicted," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo. "Wamsley violated not only federal law but ethical obligations held by nurses since the inception of the profession."

Wamsley admitted to stealing and selling three bronchoscopes, used for examining patients' airways and valued at over $100,000, for $15,750 to a Florida resident on eBay. In June 2020, when investigators searched Wamsley's home, a fourth bronchoscope and a $6,000 sleep apnea device were found — both had been stolen from the VA medical center.

Wamsley also sold five ventilators on eBay, according to records from online sales, at least three of which were stolen from VAMC.

"This type of fraud strikes at the heart of our efforts to care for our elderly — especially our veterans," said U.S. attorney Brian Moran in a statement Monday. "Stealing money is bad enough, but stealing equipment needed for life-saving therapies shocks the conscious."

In the defense's sentencing memorandum, attorneys for Wamsley said none of the equipment stolen was being used for COVID-19 related treatments.

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