Seven veterans with access to two Veterans Administration Hospitals in New Jersey are accused of dealing heroin and cocaine to patients being treated at the facilities, including some who were seeking help for addiction, federal prosecutors said.
The FBI and investigators from the VA inspector general's office arrested five of the men at the veterans hospital in Lyons Tuesday morning; one man was arrested at the facility in East Orange and another was taken into custody at his home.
The seven men, all of whom live in New Jersey and range in age from 31 to 66, are charged in separate criminal complaints with a range of counts, including supplying heroin, cocaine and hydromorphone to patients at the hospitals, prosecutors said. Five of the suspects worked in various capacities at the two hospitals.
Investigators said some of the veterans who ended up buying drugs were at the hospital to seek methadone treatment for heroin addiction.
The defendants face either one, two or three counts of illegal drug distribution, each of which carries up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
"According to our charges, these seven men abused their access to VA medical facilities to peddle dangerous drugs to other veterans undergoing treatment," U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said in a statement. "It is tragic that those who have served their country would exploit their fellow veterans."
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