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North Texas Anesthesiologist Guilty Of Tampering With IV Bags

The Justice Department announced that a Dallas anesthesiologist was convicted Friday for injecting dangerous drugs into patient IV bags, leading to one death and numerous cardiac emergencies.

A criminal complaint in September of 2023 charged Raynaldo Riviera Ortiz Jr., 60, and he was indicted the following month on charges related to tampering with IV bags used at a local surgical center. After eight days of trial and seven hours of deliberation, a jury convicted him of four counts of tampering with consumer products, resulting in serious bodily injury, one count of tampering with a consumer product, and five counts of intentional adulteration of a drug.

“The facts brought out at trial in this case are particularly disturbing,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The department will work with its law enforcement partners to hold accountable anyone who risks patients’ lives by tampering with critical medical products.”

“Dr. Ortiz cloaked himself in the white coat of a healer, but instead of curing pain, he inflicted it,” said U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton for the Northern District of Texas. “He assembled ticking time bombs, then sat in wait as those medical time bombs went off one by one, toxic cocktails flowing into the veins of patients who were often at their most vulnerable, lying unconscious on the operating table. We saw the patients testify. Their pain, their fear, and their trauma was palpable in that courtroom.”

“Patients expect doctors to use only safe and effective medical products during surgeries. When illicit tampering occurs, serious harm and even death can result,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles L. Grinstead of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OIC). “Working with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to monitor, investigate, and bring to justice those who would risk patients’ health and safety.”

According to evidence presented at trial, between May and August 2022, numerous patients at Surgicare North Dallas suffered cardiac emergencies during routine medical procedures performed by various doctors. About one month after the unexplained emergencies began, an anesthesiologist who had worked at the facility earlier that day died while treating herself for dehydration using an IV bag. In August 2022, doctors at the surgical care center began to suspect tainted IV bags had caused repeated crises after an 18-year-old patient had to be rushed to the intensive care unit in critical condition during a routine sinus surgery.

A local lab analyzed fluid from the bag used during the teenager’s surgery and found bupivacaine, a nerve-blocking agent, epinephrine, a stimulant, and lidocaine, an anesthetic — a drug cocktail that could have caused the boy’s symptoms, which included very high blood pressure, cardiac dysfunction, and pulmonary edema. The lab also observed a puncture in the bag.

Ortiz surreptitiously injected IV bags of saline with epinephrine, bupivacaine, and other drugs, placed them into a warming bin at the facility, and waited for them to be used in colleagues’ surgeries, knowing their patients would experience dangerous complications. Surveillance video introduced into evidence showed Ortiz repeatedly retrieving IV bags from the warming bin and replacing them shortly after that, not long before nurses carried the bags into operating rooms where patients experienced complications. The video also showed Ortiz mixing vials of medication and watching as emergency responders wheeled out victims.

Evidence presented at trial showed that Ortiz was facing disciplinary action at the time for an alleged medical mistake made in one of his own surgeries and that he potentially faced losing his medical license.

At trial, doctors testified about the confusion they felt when their patients’ blood pressures suddenly skyrocketed. After reviewing medical records, they noted that the emergencies occurred after they started new IV bags. Patients recalled waking up unexpectedly intubated in intensive care units that staff had transported them to via emergency medical transportation services, in pain and fear for their lives.

The court still needs to set a sentencing date. Ortiz faces a maximum penalty of 190 years in prison. The court will set his sentencing hearing at a later date.

FDA-OCI Special Agents Chad Medaris and Daniel Allgeyer investigated the case.

Assistant Director Patrick Runkle, Trial Attorney Rachel Baron of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, and Assistant U.S. Attorney John de la Garza for the Northern District of Texas prosecuted the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gail Hayworth for the Northern District of Texas provided appellate support. Chief U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey presided over the trial.

For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, visit www.justice.gov/usao-ndt.