Nurse charged with stealing drugs at nursing home

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Burnsville man was charged with four counts of tampering with and stealing pain medications (PDF) from a nursing home where he was working as a nurse, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Friday.

Daniel Thomas, 56, was charged Wednesday with two counts of theft and two counts of adulterating a substance. At his first appearance, he was given the option of a conditional release as long as he made his court appearances, remained law-abiding and did not work or volunteer at any medical care facilities.

“Once again, we have a nurse whose duty is to relieve suffering doing the exact opposite and causing a patient more pain,” Freeman said. “Other patients would also have suffered but for the keen eyes of the other nurses and the quick response by the nursing home’s staff and administrators. We will aggressively prosecute this case.”

According to the criminal complaint, Thomas was a contract nurse who works at medical facilities around the area. On Jan. 17, 2013, he filled in at a Minneapolis nursing home. The pain medications for the nursing home and hospice care patients are kept in two locked carts. At the end of each shift, the nurse going off duty and the nurse coming on duty reconcile the records to make sure no drugs were lost or stolen. At the end of his shift, Thomas reported he gave a patient .25 milliliters of oxycodone.

On Jan. 22, the patient complained of pain and she was given an increase in her oxycodone prescription. On Jan. 27, a nurse noticed that the patient’s oxycodone looked diluted and watery and a new bottle was brought from the pharmacy. Soon after that, the patient’s pain diminished, the complaint states.

The next time Thomas was contracted to work at that nursing home was late on Jan. 28 into the morning of Jan.29, 2013. At about 4:20 a.m., Thomas is seen on surveillance video pushing the cart down a hallway with patient rooms and a bathroom. He was out of sight of the cameras for about 20 minutes before returning down the hallway. About 7 a.m., another nurse was about to give two patients morphine when she noticed the drug in the bottle seemed lighter in color. In fact, the morphine in several bottles appeared that way, according to the complaint.

Six bottles of morphine and one of oxycodone were sent to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) laboratory for testing. The tests indicated that all of them had significantly less of the drug than the label indicated should be in the bottles, the complaint states.

Investigators went through Thomas’ garbage and recovered some syringes. They obtained a search warrant and recovered more syringes and two bottles. The bottles and some of the syringes had traces of morphine, oxycodone or both, according to results from the FDA laboratory, the complaint states.

The investigation was conducted by the Tactical Diversion Squad of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Minneapolis/St. Paul District Office. The squad is comprised of investigators from the DEA, FBI, FDA, Minnesota Department of Commerce, the sheriff’s offices of Hennepin, Washington and Ramsey Counties, and the Minneapolis and Plymouth Police Departments. Analytical support was provided by the Minnesota National Guard.