VAOIG Seal U.S. Department Of Veterans Affairs
Office of Inspector General
Northeast Field Office
423 East 23rd Street, Building 2
New York, NY 10010-5011
(212) 951-6850
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Clifton Park, NY Research Specialist Pleads Guilty to Criminally Negligent Homicide of a Veteran
Bruce Sackman, Special Agent in Charge, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Field Office, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, announced that Paul H. Kornak pled guilty on 1/18/05, in United States District Court in Albany, to making a false statement, mail fraud, and criminally negligent homicide. Kornak, 53, resides in Clifton Park, NY. Mr. Sackman said that the case was prosecuted by the office of United States Attorney Glenn T. Suddaby, Northern District of New York, Albany, New York.

Among Kornak's admissions in connection to his guilty plea was the fact that Kornak was involved in the treatment of James J. DiGeorgio at the Stratton VA Medical Center, and did, with criminal negligence, cause the death of Mr. DiGeorgio, in that Kornak failed to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that death would occur when he made and used documents falsely representing that Mr. DiGeorgio met the inclusion and exclusion criteria for participating in a cancer research study.

Kornak's participation in the scheme to defraud resulted in losses to entities alleged to amount to the following: Aventis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. -- $ 488,907.58; ILEX Oncology, Inc. -- $ 14,017.47; and the Department of Veterans Affairs -- $ 133,850.00.

The maximum potential penalties for each count principally are:

* False statement - imprisonment for 5 years and a $250,000 fine;
* Mail fraud - imprisonment for 20 years and the greater of $250,000 or twice the pecuniary
* gain to the Defendant or loss to victims resulting from the offense; and,
* Criminally negligent homicide - imprisonment for 4 years and a $250,000 fine.

Sentencing is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on May 27, 2005, before Chief United States District Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., in Albany. Kornak was released pending sentencing on conditions including a $50,000 bond.

The investigation arose after a routine review of records at Stratton VA Medical Center concerning a DFMO study by representatives of ILEX uncovered irregular documents. Management of the VA Medical Center notified the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which formed a team of criminal investigators, health care inspectors, an oncologist, and a medical examiner. Hundreds of patient medical records were analyzed and numerous interviews conducted.

Mr. Sackman praised the work done in this case: "The Office of Inspector General (OIG) is pleased that the case against Paul Kornak has concluded with an admission of guilt. This is a reflection of the countless hours of investigative work by the OIG and the U.S. Attorney's Office." Mr. Sackman also praised the assistance received from the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations, and the cooperation of Aventis and ILEX. Mr. Sackman stated that this was a very serious crime, as Kornak placed ineligible veterans into research studies by altering their medical records. Mr. Sackman thanked the management and staff of the Stratton VA Medical Center for their cooperation throughout the investigation, and advised that, since the inception of the investigative effort, the VA Medical Center has instituted several improvements to it research program to ensure patient safety, including increasing the number of physicians that monitor these programs.

The investigation continues. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys William C. Pericak and Grant C. Jaquith, Northern District of NY .