updated 7/22/2004 9:44:26 PM ET 2004-07-23T01:44:26

A safety consultant with phony credentials improperly inspected mammography machines and other diagnostic equipment at East Coast hospitals for 15 years, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

But a review of Perry Beale’s work at more than 50 hospitals and medical centers found there were enough checks in the system to have prevented the machines from endangering anyone, officials said.

“Based on current information, Mr. Beale’s activities posed no health risk to mammography patients,” said Dr. Charles Finder, associate director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Division of Mammography Quality and Radiation Programs. “Therefore these patients do not need to take any action as a result.”

Beale, of Fredericksburg, was charged with 38 counts of mail fraud after federal investigators discovered he falsified inspection reports and miscalibrated radiation equipment while working as a private consultant in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

Beale, who was suspended by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2002, claimed on a resume that he was certified by the American Board of Radiology and that he had a master’s degree from the University of Virginia in radiologic technology, nuclear medicine and radiological physics.

Authorities said that when Beale was confronted, he acknowledged he didn’t have any of those credentials.

Beale turns himself in
Beale turned himself in to authorities Thursday and was released on a $25,000 bond. His lawyer Richard Milnor did not return a phone call to his office seeking comment.

Prosecutors said Beale began working in 1988 as an apprentice to a medical physicist and radiation safety officer in Maryland. When his mentor died two years later, Beale continued working on his own.

Beale’s story began unraveling in 2001 when the NRC, which regulates the use of radioactive materials, noticed problems with his work and took a closer look at data at several hospitals.

The agency concluded that Beale had faked tests used to determine unhealthy radiation levels in hospital rooms in the event of a spill of the radioactive gas xenon, which is used to create images of lungs.

U.S. Attorney John L. Brownlee said facilities where Beale worked included the George Washington University Medical Center, Georgetown University Radiology Associates in Washington, D.C., and the Central Intelligence Agency Office of Medical Services in Langley, Va.

Follow-up check
FDA’s Finder emphasized that after safety officers like Beale inspect the radiation dosages, FDA inspectors and an accreditation body follow with their own check.

He conceded that these subsequent checks would not have stopped someone from suffering an inordinate amount of radiation because of Beale’s faulty inspections, “but in this case it didn’t happen.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said anyone with questions about whether they underwent testing on a machine inspected by Beale can call a toll-free number, (866) 737-0710, for more information.

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