Charges in NECC-linked meningitis outbreak expected in 2014

Investigation into pharmacy linked to contaminated steroid injections reaches critical phase
Investigation into pharmacy linked to contami... 02:37

(CBS News) NEW YORK -- The Michigan state attorney general and the Massachusetts U.S. attorney said Monday they're combining their investigations into a deadly outbreak of meningitis. It traced back to tainted steroids mixed at a Massachusetts pharmacy, the New England Compounding Center.

Scott Shaw CBS News
CBS News has learned the federal investigation into NECC is at a critical phase, and a source familiar with the case says charges could be filed soon after the first of next year.

That would be welcome news for Scott Shaw in Denton, N.C., who's been making regular trips to the cemetery for 13 months now, mourning his mother, Elwina.

"We could take the dying, but the suffering was beyond what we could take," Shaw says.

She was a vibrant 77 year old, until she took tainted steroid injections compounded by NECC for a bulging disc in her back and contracted fungal meningitis. She died a cruel death, plagued by crippling headaches and excruciating sensitivity to light.

"There was literally a war going on in her body," Shaw says. "She had a fungus that was growing that was taking her over, and the most powerful drugs we have trying to hold it back."

Shaw was one of 64 people to die from contaminated drugs compounded by NECC; 687 others were sickened.

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One year after the company shut down, owners Barry Cadden and Greg Conigliaro are still free, living in their large homes outside Boston. NECC has filed for bankruptcy, but lawyers for the victims say in the year prior to the filing, the owners transferred more than $16 million to their personal accounts.

"You want to identify those people at the highest level in the organization that are criminally culpable, and that's partly what the government is doing, and that's what takes a lot of time," says Michael Sullivan, a former U.S. attorney in Boston.

FBI agents in at least three states are conducting interviews. Scott Shaw met with agents in North Carolina two weeks ago.

Asked whether he feels the wheels of justice are moving quickly enough, Shaw says, "In a sense, no, but in a sense I don't want a rash decision."

A spokesman for NECC's owners had no comment. That's the criminal case. Shaw and hundreds of other victims' families have filed a civil suit.

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    Jim Axelrod is the chief investigative correspondent and senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning" and other CBS News broadcasts.