2 plead guilty in connection with deadly 2012 meningitis outbreak

FRAMINGHAM, MA (WHDH) - A couple charged in connection with a deadly meningitis outbreak stemming from contaminated steroid injections from the New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham pleaded guilty Friday.

Carla and Douglas Conigliaro pleaded guilty to money laundering. The prosecutor recommended no jail time for Douglas Conigliaro, who was director of a company affiliated with NECC, and probation for his wife Carla, who was a majority shareholder in NECC.

In September 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with state and local health departments and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), began investigating a multi-state outbreak of fungal meningitis and other infections among patients who received contaminated preservative-free MPA steroid injections from NECC in Framingham. Prosecutors said the company sent tainted and expired drugs around the country, which resulted in 64 deaths. Hundreds more were left sickened.

Lawyers said the Conigliaros had nothing to do with day-to-day operations of NECC but were involved in moving money around after the scandal broke.

James Lefebvre is one of the patients who said he suffered from a contaminated steroid injection. Lefebvre, 54, got the shot for back pain back in 2012 and said he has been suffering the past four years.

“I haven’t been the same since,” said Lefebvre. “I have no energy. I get rashes.” Lefebvre said he was initially relieved to hear the Conigliaros were pleading guilty to their role in the scandal but said he is not happy that their plea deal likely means no jail time.

“They’re just getting a slap in the hand,” said Lefebvre. “I mean, anytime I get a health problem I say, is this from the shots? I’ll live with this the rest of my life.”

The couple will be sentenced in November. In January, two pharmacists charged with racketeering and murder in the case, will stand trial.

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