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Former Roswell Park Nurse Pleads Guilty to Tampering with Medications Intended for Patients

OCI BadgeDepartment of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Kelsey A. Mulvey, 28, of Grand Island, NY, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara to tampering with a consumer product. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

“This case highlights the self-destructive power of addiction and the lengths to which those struggling with substance use disorder will go,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “This defendant took medications intended to treat cancer patients to feed her own addiction, hurting those who were seriously ill or dying. This case illustrates just how widespread and devastating the damage caused by a one person’s addiction can be.”     

“The FDA oversees the U.S. drug supply to ensure that it is safe and effective, and those who tamper with medicines put patients’ health at risk,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Jeffrey J. Ebersole, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, New York Field Office. “We will continue to protect the public health and bring to justice health care professionals who take advantage of their unique positions and compromise patients’ health and comfort by criminally tampering with needed drugs.”

“Kelsey Mulvey's plea today to tampering with powerful narcotics intended to ease the suffering of cancer patients here in Buffalo painfully resonates with the thousands of families who have personally faced the challenges and torment that comes with the crippling affliction of cancer,” said FBI Buffalo Field Office Special-Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia. “Although the pain of addiction takes its own toll on those who suffer from it, it cannot and does not excuse medical professionals who intentionally compromise the health and comfort of cancer patients who deserve to receive safe and unadulterated medication meant to ease their pain.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Misha A. Coulson, who is handling the case, stated that between July 21, 2016, and July 13, 2018, the defendant worked as a registered nurse at Roswell Park Comprehensive Center. Between February and June 2018, Mulvey tampered with and stole controlled medications, including Dilaudid, from various medication dispensing machines located throughout the hospital, which tracked and held controlled substances meant for Rowell Park patients. She did so to satisfy her addiction.

Specifically, the defendant would conduct a transaction at a dispensing machine, quickly cancel the transaction and leave the medication drawer open, open the vial and remove the hydromorphone, replace it with water, and place the vial back into the machine so the total count of vials would not trigger scrutiny. Over time, Mulvey utilized the patient medical record database to search for patients specifically prescribed hydromorphone, because to access the dispensing machine, the defendant had to first access patient profiles. At times, Mulvey would divert vials of controlled medications from the dispensing machine and not administer the medication to any patient.

On June 27, 2018, the defendant had a scheduled vacation day, however, she was observed accessing a dispensing machine, carrying a backpack, and exiting a medication room in which she was not assigned. It was later determined that Mulvey had accessed the drawer for hydromorphone. The defendant was subsequently placed on administrative leave and resigned in lieu of termination.

From June to July 2018, there was a spate of waterborne infections at Roswell Park, during which six patients became ill. An investigation by the hospital concluded that tampering of compounded hydromorphone vials was the cause. On June 27, 2018, seven hydromorphone vials were removed from the dispensing machines, which were involved in the defendant’s conduct. Four out of seven grew the waterborne bacteria and had approximately 80% of the hydromorphone removed and replaced. Roswell Park tested another set of vials and concluded that three out of four vials had a substantial percentage of hydromorphone removed and replaced and waterborne bacteria.

The plea is the culmination of an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Ebersole; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia; the New York State Department of Education, Office of Professional Discipline; and the New York State Attorney General’s Office, under the direction of Attorney General Letitia James.

Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.

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