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Inspector general conducting separate criminal probe into Pittsburgh Legionnaires' outbreak

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 11:09 p.m.

A separate criminal investigation is under way by the Veterans Affairs' Office of Inspector General into how the Legionnaires' disease outbreak was handled by officials at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, but when it will be completed is uncertain.

“We cannot provide an answer at this time and will not be able to provide any information until the investigation is concluded,” said spokeswoman Catherine Gromek.

U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton, who has promised to conduct his own review, declined to comment.

The probe by the VA Inspector General's Criminal Investigations division is separate from the report on Tuesday by the IG's Office of Healthcare Inspections into the VA's failures in Legionnaires' disease prevention. The outbreak at VA facilities in Oakland and O'Hara lasted from February 2011 to November 2012, sickening as many as 21 people, five of whom died.

Among the things the criminal investigation is looking into are the answers given to questions from Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, at a Feb. 5 congressional hearing about the outbreak.

Steve Shira, president of water treatment system manufacturer LiquiTech, told Congress that one of his employees witnessed a VA worker falsifying inspection records. During the same hearing, Kathi Dahl, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2028 representing some VA workers, said VA Pittsburgh Associate Director Lovetta Ford told Dahl she could call in sick rather than testify.

Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or mwereschagin@tribweb.com.

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