A former surgical assistant at Riverside Community Hospital was sentenced to prison and ordered to pay $5 million in restitution Monday for stealing medical supplies from the facility, prosecutors announced.
Oscar Orlando Bernal of Moreno Valley was sentenced to six years and must also forfeit $200,000 that was seized during the investigation into his crimes, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
Bernal, 38, had been working at the hospital for more than 10 years and investigators believe he stole from the facility over at least the past three years, according to prosecutors. Investigators found dozens of missing medical cartridges known as “reloads” upon serving a search warrant at his home in January.
He stole the cartridges, which contain surgical staples, from supply stations at the hospital — hiding them in his clothes and putting them inside the men’s locker room before taking them at the end of his shifts, prosecutors allege.
According to prosecutors, Bernal illegally sold the reloads to medical supply businesses outside the area and the hospital lost thousands of the cartridges as a result.
The massive thefts were finally uncovered when hospital staffers noticed their supply of reloads did not conform to the number of surgeries requiring use of the cartridges, according to the DA’s office.
The hospital launched an internal investigation, working with the Riverside Police Department, and authorities found dozens of the missing devices and several thousand dollars in cash at Bernal’s home in January.
On April 4, he pleaded guilty to seven counts of grand theft and admitted to a special sentencing enhancement for felony theft exceeding $500,000.