Feds Crack Down on Nurses Diverting Fentanyl Meant for Patients

Avery Hurt

February 10, 2022

Nurse Sentenced for Tampering With ICU Patient's Medication

A Florida nurse was sentenced to 6 months in federal prison, followed by 6 months of home detention, for tampering with a consumer product, the medication fentanyl.

According to the US Department of Justice, registered nurse Jerome Clampitt II was working the night shift in a Jacksonville, Florida, hospital when co-workers saw him using a syringe to administer fentanyl to a patient, though there was no medically necessary reason for the patient to receive the medication at that time. The co-workers reported the incident, and laboratory testing determined that the patient's dose of fentanyl had been diluted with saline.

Upon questioning by law enforcement officers, Clampitt admitted that he had diverted drugs from patients for his personal use. However, he denied diluting patients' drugs with saline. A subsequent audit of hospital records found multiple discrepancies in his handling of controlled substances during the month he had been employed there.

Further investigation found that Clampitt had been fired in 2019 by another hospital for refusing to submit to a drug test after that hospital discovered discrepancies in records suggesting he might have been diverting drugs for his own use.

Clampitt pleaded guilty to the charges in January.

As a part of his guilty plea, Clampitt admitted knowing that his actions could result in patients suffering pain, in addition to an increased risk of illness and death stemming from possible infection as well as respiratory, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal complications.

Nurse Sentenced in Drug Diversion and Tampering Scheme

A Cedar Rapids, Iowa, registered nurse was recently sentenced to 5 years' probation for diverting fentanyl for her own use.

Sabrina Thalblum, 52, was sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of acquiring a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, deception, and subterfuge and one count of adulteration and misbranding with intent to defraud and mislead, according to the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Iowa.

Taking advantage of her access to vials of fentanyl, Thalblum used a syringe to draw fentanyl from the vials and then replaced the stolen drug with saline, according to officials. After she made the substitution, she re-glued the caps of the vials to make it appear that the vials had not been tampered with.

According to a Department of Justice statement announcing the sentencing, Thalblum admitted at her guilty plea and sentencing hearings that she had been addicted to fentanyl and that she abused her position as a registered nurse to gain access to the drug at the outpatient surgery center where she worked.

The Gazette reports that the judge overseeing her case went below the advisory sentencing guidelines of 21 to 27 months in prison, based on several factors, including the fact that Thalblum sought treatment after being arrested and hasn't reoffended nor relapsed.

In addition to probation, Thalblum will have to pay a $10,000 fine and forfeit her nursing license.

Nurse Charged With Tampering With Consumer Products

A registered nurse based in Michigan is accused of using a syringe to remove fentanyl from vials and replacing the medicine with saline, according to federal officials.

A federal grand jury has charged Alison Marshall, 46, of Sturgis, Michigan, with tampering with a consumer product, a federal charge. The crime is alleged to have taken place while Marshall worked as a nurse in the interventional radiology unit of Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

According to the indictment, Marshall knew that the vials containing saline would be dispensed to patients. WWMT, a Kalamazoo television station, reported that the tampering was discovered when another nurse administered medication from one of the vials that had been tampered with, and the patient did not respond.

Marshall was fired from the hospital in August 2020, and her license was suspended the following October, the television station reported. If convicted, Marshall could face up to 10 years in prison.

Nurse Practitioner Convicted in Telemedicine Fraud Scheme

After a 2-day trial, a jury found a Georgia nurse practitioner guilty of charges related to a multimillion dollar telemedicine fraud scheme.

Sherley L. Beaufils, 43, of Conyers, Georgia, was found guilty of healthcare fraud, aggravated identity theft, and false statements related to healthcare, according to the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia. She was found not guilty on one charge of conspiracy.

The charges were related to a complex telemedicine fraud scheme involving Beaufils and others. Her accomplices used a telemarketing scam to steal the identities of senior citizens. That information was provided to Beaufils, a nurse practitioner, who, in exchange for money, signed her name to fake medical records in which she falsely claimed that she had examined the patients. She then created orders for orthotic braces for patients she had never seen nor spoken with, including a back brace for a recently deceased patient, according to officials.

The scheme involved unnecessary orders for more than 3000 orthotic braces and resulted in upwards of three million dollars in fraudulent or excessive Medicare charges.

"The level of greed shown by Beaufils in this case is shocking, as she lined her pockets at the expense of American taxpayers and government funded healthcare programs," Philip Wislar, acting special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta, said in a statement announcing the verdict.

Beaufils' indictment was a part of Operation Brace Yourself, a nationwide initiative targeting healthcare fraud. She faces up to 10 years in prison on each of five counts of healthcare fraud, 2 years on each count of aggravated identity theft, and 5 years on the other counts. In addition, she will be expected to pay substantial fines and penalties.

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