Chicago man sentenced in hospital laughing gas tank theft: records

A Chicago man was sentenced to one year of probation Feb. 23 after admitting he stole four nitrous oxide tanks from St. Catherine’s Hospital in East Chicago, court records show.

Enrique Ochoa, 43, pleaded guilty to theft, a class A misdemeanor.

He will have to repay nearly $3,000 to the hospital.

St. Catherine Hospital’s director of security told a detective that a man entered the hospital on Nov. 5, 2018, through a boiler room and told an employee “he was there to remove four tanks of nitrous oxide to do repair on them,” according to a probable cause affidavit. The man then removed four tanks, each of which was 5 feet tall, and put them in the back of a black Ford F-150 pickup truck and fled the area, according to the affidavit.

The employee said he received a phone call the morning of Nov. 5, 2018 from a number listed as Air Gas, the affidavit states. The caller said there were eight bottles of nitrous oxide delivered and “there was a recall on the bottle relieve stems,” according to the affidavit. The caller said he would send a man named Jose “to verify lot numbers,” according to the affidavit.

Later that afternoon, the hospital employee received a call from a person who said he was Jose and let him in, according to the affidavit. Jose said “all eight bottles were bad and he was going to take four and leave four for backup,” according to the affidavit.

Jose said he would replace the eight bottles and pick them up on Nov. 8, but “he never came back,” according to the affidavit.

The hospital had video of the person who took the tanks, which police released to the public in an attempt to identify the man, according to court records.

Later in November, a director of public safety at another health care system told police the man was Ochoa, according to the affidavit. Ochoa was involved in stealing nitrous oxide from a Chicago hospital in 2014, and he attempted to remove nitrous oxide from a health care system in Evergreen Park, Illinois, according to the affidavit.

Nitrous oxide is used in the operating room as anesthesia and is medical grade, which general people aren’t allowed to buy, according to the affidavit.

The loss of the four tanks and gas is over $2,800, according to the affidavit.

He was originally charged with theft, unlawful possession or use of a legend drug, and criminal trespass.

Post-Tribune archives contributed.