FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KFSM) — A former pathologist at the Veterans Healthcare System of the Ozarks has been charged in federal court with three counts of involuntary manslaughter after a year-long investigation into allegations that he worked while he was impaired.
Dr. Robert Levy, 53, was also charged Tuesday (Aug. 20) with 12 counts of wire fraud, 12 counts of mail fraud and four counts of making false statements. He has pleaded not guilty.
His actions, which included accessing patient records and falsifying diagnoses, lead to the deaths of three patients, according to Dak Kees, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.
Levy concealed his impairment by taking 2-methyl-2-butanol (2M-2B), a chemical substance that enables a person to achieve a state of intoxication but is not detectable in routine drug and alcohol testing methodology, Kees said.
Ingesting between 18 and 27 grams of the substance can induce signs of intoxication and cause unconsciousness only 30 minutes after taking the drug, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).
The effects can last into the following day and can be followed by deep, daylong sleeping and a two-week recovery, according to NCBI.
Levy has denied being impaired on duty amid an investigation at the VA into more than 30,000 of his cases dating back to 2005.
Reviews showed 3,007 of those cases showed an error or misdiagnosis.
Levy first had a complaint of working while intoxicated in October 2015. Levy denied the allegation to a VA "fact-finding panel," according to his indictment.
The VA subsequently suspended Levy's privilege to practice medicine and issued him a written notice of removal and revocation of clinical privileges, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Levy later acknowledged that he once showed up drunk in 2016 to work at the Fayetteville clinic, but denied working while impaired.
However, prosecutors said a drug and alcohol test from that incident revealed Levy had a blood-alcohol content of .396. The legal limit in Arkansas to operate a vehicle is .08.
Levy agreed that the punishment was "due to unprofessional conduct related to high blood alcohol content while on duty," and in July 2016, he voluntarily entered a three-month in-treatment program. He completed the program in October 2016.
Levy was fired from the VA in the spring of 2018.
Levy told the Associated Press that the VA fired him as Chief of Pathology because of a DUI which was ultimately dismissed.
Levy was arrested last week. He's being held at the Washington County Detention Center with no bond set.
He was arraigned Tuesday morning and his trial is set for Oct. 7.
If convicted of each count, Levy faces a maximum sentence of 524 years in prison and a $7 million fine.
Kees said the investigation is ongoing but couldn't comment further.
Click here to read the full indictment.