Former NIH Employee Sold Stolen Medical Equipment, Other Government Property on eBay

Gaithersburg man pleaded guilty to stealing items valued at $75,000 while working for the agency


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An aerial view of the National Institutes of Health headquarters.

Via National Cancer Institute (Wikimedia Commons)

An eBay receipt left in a National Institutes of Health office copier tipped off investigators to a scheme to sell more than $75,000 worth of stolen government property online.

In October, a contractor noticed the receipt and informed a branch chief at NIH. The eBay account was selling a large quantity of medical research equipment and office supplies, which investigators ultimately linked to Christopher Dame, an NIH employee with an office near the copier.

Dame, 50, admitted to stealing more than 400 items from the research agency between January 3, 2013 and January 12, 2017, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office press release. He pleaded guilty to theft of government property on May 3.

In full, the stolen items—including electrophoresis machines, photography equipment and printing supplies—were worth $75,613, which Dame must pay back as part of the plea agreement.

Dame, a Gaithersburg resident, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 6.

Dame had worked with the Bethesda-based agency in its Medical Arts Division, where his job was designing and displaying printed materials. In his role, he also directed colleagues in purchasing printer ink, according to attorneys.

Investigators were able to connect Dame to the “phodan0” eBay account selling the equipment, some of which displayed conspicuous NIH stickers, because it also sold items advertised as “Photography by Christopher Dame,” according to documents. An investigator with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which NIH is a part of, then discovered that a computer with Dame’s IP address was often used to access the eBay account.

Police obtained a warrant in January for a search of Dame’s Stedwick Drive house, car and storage units, and found more than a dozen medical items, many with NIH property stickers, according to court documents.

Dame admitted to the thefts, though he claimed several items, including a camera and a microscope, belonged to him, according to the investigator’s statement. Serial numbers on these items revealed they were owned by NIH.

Most of the stolen items were posted for sale on eBay, according to documents. Among them were a $238 Xerox cyan toner catridge, which he sold for $40, and a $476 Leitz LaborLux microscope, which he sold for $75.

In addition to stealing items, attorneys wrote, Dame admitted that he “deceived his colleagues” into purchasing extra printer ink for NIH that he then planned to sell.

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