Nurse stole drugs meant for hospital patients over 400 times in 5 months, feds say

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By usawebstories

An emergency department nurse accessed a hospital’s locked drug cabinet over 400 times to steal opioids that were meant for nearly 300 patients, federal prosecutors said.

The woman is accused of taking the drugs — including morphine, fentanyl and hydromorphone — over five months at the Boston area hospital in 2019, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.

She withdrew the medications for 299 patients who had been discharged from the facility, prosecutors said.

Now, the 39-year-old, of Winchester, has been sentenced to three months in prison for diverting the drugs, the attorney’s office announced in a Nov. 15 news release.

Her sentencing, which will be followed by one year of supervised release, comes after she pleaded guilty to three counts of unlawfully obtaining controlled substances by fraud, deception and subterfuge, prosecutors said.

McClatchy News contacted Brendan Kelley, a federal defender representing the woman, for comment on Nov. 16 and didn’t receive an immediate response.

In a sentencing memorandum submitted on his client’s behalf, Kelley wrote she “is extremely remorseful for her conduct.”

She “has paid a steep price for committing these acts,” Kelley said.

Kelley added that there is no “allegation that any patient suffered” as a result of the drug diversions.

The nurse’s motives for stealing the drugs are unclear, according to prosecutors who wrote in their sentencing memorandum that an investigation “could not conclusively establish what happened after (she) stole the drugs from the hospital.”

However, there “are two clear possibilities,” prosecutors wrote.

“The first is that she distributed them to third parties. The second is that she administered them to herself,” the sentencing memo says.

The woman told her employer and the Board of Registration in Nursing that she used the drugs she stole, but prosecutors said her negative drug tests showed she didn’t.

When investigators examined her purported injection site, they didn’t find evidence of injections, according to the sentencing memo.

Additionally, “there were never any reports that (she) was impaired while on duty … she was a well-regarded member of the nursing staff,” the sentencing memo says.

The government suspects the woman was a potential drug dealer based on “significant evidence,” according to the sentencing memo.

Prosecutors also suggested the stolen drugs may have gone to her boyfriend, who was known to have a history of opioid addiction at the time, according to the sentencing memo.

Meanwhile, Kelley wrote in his client’s sentencing memo that the charges against her “do not involve allegations of any broader conspiracy seeking the distributing of the drugs within the community.”

Winchester is about 10 miles northwest of Boston.

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