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Surgery tech accused of tampering with syringes earlier had stolen drugs while in Navy, records show

SEATTLE -- With about 1,500 former hospital patients in Washington warned of possible exposure to HIV and hepatitis, Q13 FOX News has obtained new records about the surgery technician accused of potentially exposing patients to the diseases.

A Navy court-martial document we obtained shows that Rocky Allen had a record of stealing narcotics in operating rooms before he was employed at two hospitals in Washington. Allen was discharged from the Navy while he was based at the Naval Hospital in Bremerton.

He was discharged after pleading guilty to stealing 30 vials of Fentanyl, a painful narcotic, while stationed in Afghanistan to treat injured soldiers. Allen also confessed to plucking a syringe of Fentanyl from an operating room with the purpose of using the drug on himself.

Allen told a judge he needed the drugs to deal with the horrific injuries he witnessed in surgery.

“I never had a patient die on my operating table until I came here. Your honor, to have the number go from zero to 14 in less than six months is a numbing experience and it will forever be imprinted on my mind.”

Now, five years after Allen gave that statement, he is locked up again -- in Colorado.

An attorney filed a lawsuit Friday morning against the Colorado hospital where Allen most recently worked and where he is now facing federal charges. Allen is accused of injecting syringes of narcotics into himself and then putting the used needles back into rotation for surgery patients.

After his arrest in Colorado, hospitals here in Washington started sending out letters to patients alerting them to get tested for HIV and hepatitis B and C. But they did tell patients in Washington that the risk is extremely low.

But Avery says the hospitals in Washington did not do enough to protect their patients. On Friday evening, he was drafting a lawsuit against the hospitals in Washington.

Allen worked at Northwest Hospital and Lakewood Surgery Center soon after his discharge from the Naval Hospital in Bremerton. The stints happened before he hopped over to Colorado.

“They had the same opportunity to discover his background as did Swedish Hospital in Colorado,” Avery said.

Northwest Hospital says they terminated Allen in 2012 but will not explain why.

“I think Northwest Hospital ought to have given some information to their patients and this is one of the reasons why we are having to aggressively pursue litigation because the hospitals are not giving information to patients,” Avery said.

One former local patient, Carina Sauerzopf, now claims she got hepatitis from Allen's alleged tampering with needles. Although there is no proof of the claim, Sauerzopf says she didn`t have hepatitis before going into surgery at Northwest Hospital in 2012, when Allen worked there.

“It’s criminal that so many other people were involved that were innocently affected,” Sauerzopf said.

Under state law,  a hospital must report a health care professional if they are fired after harming a patient or placing a patient at unreasonable risk of harm.

The State Health Department says none of the hospitals reported Allen to them.

Northwest Hospital updated us Friday evening to say they did do a background check on Allen before hiring him. A spokesperson said the check did not detect the Navy's court-martial records and that no one at the Navy told them about Allen's past record.