BOSTON – A Worcester nurse pleaded guilty yesterday in connection with stealing painkillers from the nursing home where she worked and attempting to conceal her crime by replacing the medication with saline.
Lea Roberge, 32, pleaded guilty to two counts of tampering with a consumer product, specifically the Schedule II controlled substance morphine, which is used for pain relief. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman scheduled sentencing for April 5, 2017.
On two separate occasions in March 2015, while working as a registered nurse at Holy Trinity Eastern Orthodox Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Roberge tampered with morphine sulfate contained in emergency narcotic kits. The kits are available for use at the nursing home in case of an emergency when there is not enough time to obtain medication from the pharmacy. Roberge, who had access to these emergency narcotic kits, used a syringe to extract morphine from six vials and one bottle. In an attempt to avoid detection, she replaced the extracted medication with saline, thereby decreasing the potency of the drug.
The charging statute provides for a sentence of no greater than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Jeffrey Ebersole, Special Agent in Charge of the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, New York Field Office; and Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH, of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Lauren Dineen Jerrett of Ortiz’s Worcester Branch Office is prosecuting the case.