Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Montana
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
BILLINGS—An ex-St. Vincent Healthcare nurse who admitted swapping a patient’s pain pills for an over the counter medication, leaving the patient in pain, was sentenced today to four years of probation, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.
Shelia Marie White, 61, of Billings, pleaded guilty in June to tampering with a consumer product.
U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen presided.
“Taking a patient’s pain medication to feed an opioid addiction not only puts the patient’s health at risk but also violates the law. Ms. White’s case sends the message that healthcare professionals who use their position to steal opioids will be prosecuted,” U.S. Attorney Alme said.
“Patients rely on the knowledge that they will receive FDA-approved medications to manage their pain,” said Special Agent in Charge Lisa L. Malinowski, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, Los Angeles Field Office. “We will continue to pursue and bring to justice healthcare professionals who put their patients’ health at risk by tampering with their pain medications.”
In court records filed in the case, the prosecution said White was a nurse at St. Vincent Healthcare when she replaced packaged hydrocodone, a prescription strength pain reliever, with generic over-the-counter acetaminophen on Dec. 6, 2018. The switch was discovered because one of her patients noticed that she was being given different pills by White than by the other nurses. The patient told officials she was in considerably more pain during White’s shift than other nurses’ shifts.
When confronted by a manager and the human resources director, White initially said she could not understand why the patient was accusing her, but then admitted she had taken the patient’s pain pills. White said she used the hydrocodone pills.
White also admitted to law enforcement agents that she had replaced the hydrocodone pills with an over-the-counter medication and had become addicted to the pills.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Godfrey prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Food and Drug Administration.
USAO - Montana
Clair Johnson Howard Public Information Officer 406-247-4623