Lawyer: Two patients at Swedish Medical Center test positive for hepatitis

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DENVER -- The lawyer for two patients who had surgery at Swedish Medical Center said his clients have tested positive for hepatitis.

That information came Tuesday night just hours after Rocky Allen, the former surgical technologist at Swedish Medical Center who is accused of changing syringes and putting thousands of patients at risk for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, was arrested and charged.

"It could have very serious health consequences and would certainly qualify as serious bodily injury," attorney James Avery said.

Avery represents 14 patients, including one woman and a man who claim surgery at Swedish infected them with the viral infection.

Allen, 28, was indicted on charges of tampering with a consumer product and obtaining a controlled substance by deceit. He appeared in federal court Tuesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristen Mix.

According to the indictment, Allen tried to remove a syringe containing fentanyl citrate and replace it with a similar syringe with another substance. Allen is also alleged to have knowingly and intentionally acquired fentanyl citrate, a controlled substance, by deception and subterfuge.

Because of that, Swedish Medical Center has asked about 3,000 patients who had surgery between Aug. 17 and Jan. 22 in the main operating rooms and in the orthopedic operating room on Oct. 28 to be tested for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

"This is a case that really needs to be investigated from the standpoint of how did this happen in an operating room supposed to be a sterile environment," Avery said.

Allen faces one count of tampering with a consumer product, and could be sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and fined up to $250,000. He also faces one count of obtaining a controlled substance by deceit and subterfuge.

He was advised of the charges against him and had his rights read to him. Allen then asked for a court-appointed attorney. That lawyer will come from the federal public defender's office. The judge ordered him held without bond.

His next hearing, an arraignment, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday. If convicted on both counts, he could be sentenced to 14 years in federal prison and fined up to $500,000.

The Department of Justice said in a news release that agents attempted to arrest Allen late last week. That did not happen.

Tuesday morning, Allen turned himself in at an attorney's office. Federal agents were called and arrested him there. He was taken to the federal courthouse and turned over to the U.S. Marshals for processing.

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