Former Hershey Medical Center technician pleads guilty to making false statements about faulty tests on cancer patients

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HARRISBURG — A former research technologist at the Hershey Medical Center pleaded guilty to charges that he made false statements in connection to his performance of flawed genetic diagnostic tests for 124 cancer patients, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced Wednesday.

Floyd Benko, 62, of Palmyra, performed gene mutation tests for 124 advanced stage cancer patients at the Medical Center on 2013 and 2014, according to U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler. These tests help physicians diagnose the type of cancer a patient is suffering from so specifically tailored treatments can be administered.

Benko did not perform the tests in the manner called for by the Hershey Medical Center’s standard operating procedures, Brandler said. Subsequent re-testing of the patients revealed that 60 of the 124 patients tested by Benko had results that did not match up with those obtained by two outside laboratories.

Benko admitted to making a false statement about the manner by which he performed the tests to Hershey Medical Center administrators on April 11, 2014. He said he concealed the fact that he did not follow standard operating procedures by failing to use a device known as a NanoDrop 2000 photo spectrometer, and by failing to preserve the patients’ leftover tissue and DNA samples.

The Hershey Medical Center incurred $69,906 in out-of-pocket expenses for outside laboratory re-testing of all the affected patients, Brandler said. As part of his plea agreement, Benko agreed to make full restitution to the Medical Center.

Benko’s sentencing date has yet to be determined, pending the preparation of a pre-sentencing report, Brandler said.

The sentencing judge will consider applicable federal sentencing statutes and guidelines, Brandler said.

The maximum penalty for making false statements in health care matters is a five-year jail term, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine, according to Brandler. The judge is also required to consider the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense, the history and characteristics of the defendant, the need to punish the defendant, protect the public, and provide for the defendant’s education, vocational and medical needs, Brandler said.

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