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Former paramedic pleads guilty to stealing drugs in Missouri

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A former paramedic in Missouri pleaded guilty to stealing pain-killing drugs and filling the vials with water, authorities said Tuesday.

Joseph Comstock, 31, of Bethany, Mo., waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty in federal court to three counts of tampering with a consumer product with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of death or bodily injury, and under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to such risk, said Tom Larson, acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, in a prepared statement.

In his plea, Comstock admitted that he emptied vials of morphine and fentanyl and replaced the pain-killers with sterilized water, Larson said. Comstock took the morphine and fentanyl for his own use.

Comstock said he tampered with the drug vials while working at both the NTA Ambulance District in Bethany and the Community Ambulance District of Daviess County in Gallatin, Mo., in 2014 and 2015.

On at least two occasions, Comstock admitted, he personally treated patients with tampered drugs. Both patients had fractured their hips and were supposed to receive fentanyl, but instead received sterile water.

Comstock could be sentenced to as much as 10 years in federal prison on each of the three counts, Larson said.

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger