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Former Nurse at Danville Hospital Sentenced for Tampering with Prescription Opioid Drugs, Making False Statements

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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

Friday, February 4, 2022

DANVILLE, Va. – A former registered nurse working at Sovah Health-Danville was sentenced today to 36 months in federal prison for tampering with consumer products (fentanyl and hydromorphone) and making false statements.

Emilee Kathryn Poteat, 31, pleaded guilty in May 2021 to one count of tampering with consumer products (fentanyl and hydromorphone) that affect interstate commerce, with one count of reckless disregard for the risk that another person be placed in danger of death or bodily injury, and one count of making false statements.

“Those who are trusted to keep opioids and other pain medications secure must be held to the highest standards possible,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said today. “When those individuals break that trust, the United States Attorney’s Office will hold them accountable to ensure the public’s trust in our medical institutions.”

“Health care professionals who steal needed medications from their patients put those patients at increased risk of harm and create a disruption in the legal drug supply chain,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark S. McCormack of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations – Metropolitan Washington Field Office. “We will continue to protect the public health and bring to justice health care professionals who take advantage of their unique position and compromise their patients’ health and comfort by tampering with prescription drugs.”

According to court documents, beginning in January 2020, Poteat diverted and tampered with fentanyl vials and hydromorphone injectables (a/k/a Dilaudid) intended for the use of patients at Sovah Health-Danville.

On May 19, 2020, it was discovered that the tops of several vials of fentanyl stored in an AcuDose machine on floor 6A had apparently been removed and tampered. Of the twenty vials of fentanyl inspected, fourteen of the vials had the tops popped off while the remaining tops fell off when touched. One of the vials had a dry white film around the rim which appeared to be superglue. To access an AcuDose machine, each registered nurse has their own unique code that must be entered to gain entry, and a review of the machine on floor 6A revealed that Poteat was the only employee who accessed the drawer where the tampered vials were found. 

On May 28, 2020, Poteat was interviewed by law enforcement. She denied tampering with any controlled substances  and said she did not drink alcohol or use drugs. During a subsequent interview with law enforcement on June 28, 2020, Poteat again told investigators that she did not tamper with,  use, or sell drugs, and suggested another person used her password to gain access to the AcuDose machine on 6A.

In her interview with the Virginia Department of Health Professions after being terminated from  Sovah Health-Danville, Poteat admitted she had a substance abuse problem, self-medicated with opioids, and diverted the fentanyl and hydromorphone she accessed at Sovah Health-Danville for her own use.

The Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Virginia Department of Health Professions investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Ramseyer prosecuted the case. 

USAO - Virginia, Western

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