Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital patient accused of flushing heroin before police check
City police allege that a 37-year-old patient at Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg flushed several stamp bags of heroin down the toilet in his room last week after officers entered to investigate a report that he was selling drugs.
Jeffrey J. Lakin of Greensburg was arrested Thursday by city Detective John Swank on his release from the hospital and charged with delivery of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
“It’s pretty brazen selling heroin from a hospital bed. You’d think in the hospital you’d be away from that kind of activity, but it just shows how widespread the problem is,” said police Capt. Robert Stafford.
Stafford praised hospital security personnel, who prompted the investigation when they noticed an unusual number of people going in and out of Lakin’s room.
Due to patient privacy regulations, the reason for Lakin’s hospital stay was not released and not mentioned in police reports. He was in the hospital for about a week, Stafford said.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, hospital security notified police after 10 p.m. May 31 of the possible drug activity.
Officers including Swank and Patrolman Jason Gain went to the hospital. Officers and security personnel noticed that a man had entered through the emergency room, and they suspected he was headed to Lakin’s room.
Gain said he recognized the visitor, who has criminal convictions for drug possession.
When the man tried to pull away in his car, which he had parked outside the emergency room in an “ambulance only” area, Swank blocked him in with his unmarked police vehicle.
Swank said a female passenger opened the passenger door and ran. Officers apprehended her a short distance away.
When police ordered the man out of his vehicle, “there were six stamp bags of heroin in plain view,” Swank said.
Officers confiscated 12 empty stamp bags from the visitor’s pants pockets. Police recovered two more stamp bags containing suspected heroin outside the car.
“(The visitor) then admitted that he went to Jeff Lakin’s room inside the hospital and purchased the heroin that was found on the driver’s seat. He said (Lakin) retrieved the heroin from a bag in the bathroom,” Swank wrote.
The female passenger told police that she drove to the hospital with the man to purchase heroin from Lakin, Swank said.
Hospital security officers told police that another man tried to enter the facility as they investigated outside. In the affidavit, Swank said he was concerned that the second visitor, who was not identified, would alert Lakin to the police activity.
Assisted by hospital security officers, police went to Lakin’s room “and encountered Lakin on the bathroom floor near the toilet where he was going through a duffle bag.”
Lakin told Swank that the first visitor had sold him the heroin, but “he had flushed it down the toilet.”
Police found “owe sheets” for heroin sales that Lakin kept by his bedside and some $1,181, Swank wrote. Before he left the hospital, officers confiscated hypodermic needles and spoons used to administer heroin.
Lakin then admitted to Swank that he was selling heroin from his room, according to the affidavit.
No one who visited Lakin has been charged, although police said the investigation is ongoing.
Lakin was ordered to be held in the county prison after failing to post $11,000 bail pending a preliminary hearing before Greensburg District Judge James Albert.
Excela Health spokeswoman Robin Jennings said the hospital will remain vigilant in combating the drug abuse problem.
“Excela Health staff know they are on the front lines of Westmoreland County’s drug abuse problems and are empowered to speak up when they notice suspicious behavior,” Jennings said. “Thankfully, this incident led to an arrest rather than a fatal drug overdose.”
In April 2014, Lori Sullenburger, 40, of Youngwood was arrested by city police for selling heroin while she was a patient in the intensive care unit of the same hospital.
Sullenberger admitted selling heroin to customers who visited and used a syringe to infuse heroin into her intravenous line during her hospital stay.
She was sentenced to 42 months in prison.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.