A former Riverside Community Hospital surgical assistant was sentenced Monday to six years in state prison for stealing millions of dollars worth of surgical gear and then reselling the inventory for personal gain.
Oscar Orlando Bernal, 38, of Moreno Valley pleaded guilty last month to seven counts of grand theft and a sentence-enhancing white collar crime allegation. No charges were dismissed under the plea agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.
Superior Court Judge O.G. Magno imposed the stipulated sentence and ordered Bernal to pay $5 million in restitution.
Authorities seized $200,000 in property during the investigation, and the defendant elected not to contest the asset forfeiture, according to the D.A.'s office.
Riverside police Officer Ryan Railsback said detectives were alerted in May 2018 to possible theft of medical supplies at RCH, after administrators at the downtown facility conducted an audit to rectify accounting discrepancies.
Railsback said the audit focused mainly on large volumes of surgical staples -- valued at $2.9 million -- that had been ordered over a three-year period, but couldn't be located on the hospital grounds.
According to the D.A.'s office, the staples, also known as "reloads," were being pocketed by the defendant, who had easy access, and deposited into his locker, where they remained until he could bag them and carry them out of the hospital unnoticed.
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"Bernal then illegally sold the reloads to out-of-area medical supply businesses," district attorney's office spokesman John Hall said. "RCH's investigation revealed Bernal's theft resulted in the loss of thousands of reloads."
After a six-month investigation, detectives identified the defendant as the thief. When a search warrant was served at his residence in the 11200 block of Showdown Lane on Jan. 31, dozens of reloads were seized, prosecutors said.
Bernal, who worked at the hospital for a decade, had no documented prior felony convictions.