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Health Care Center Nursing Supervisor Arrested and Charged with Selling Hydrocodone and Other Pain Killers

OCT 18 (BUFFALO, N.Y.)  Brian R. Crowell, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) New York Division and U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul announced today that Catherine Vitello, 40, of Elma, N.Y., was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with possession with intent to distribute and distribution of hydrocodone, fentanyl and alprazolam. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John M. Alsup, who is handling the case, stated that the defendant is the Director of Nursing at the St. Catherine Laboure Health Care Center in Buffalo. According to the complaint, the defendant sold unused prescription drugs from her office. These controlled substances included hydrocodone, fentanyl, oxycontin, morphine, and clonazepam. On two separate occasions in October 2013, Vitello sold hydrocodone, fentanyl and alprazolam to a confidential source working with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Crowell stated, “Over the past five years, emergency room visits involving the misuse or abuse of pharmaceutical drugs have doubled. Today’s arrests focused on a pharmaceutical drug dealer who led a double life disguised as the Director of Nursing at St. Catherine Laboure Health Care Center.  Supplying unused prescription drugs from her office, Catherine Vitello fueled the drug threat to our community and profited over $60,000 in the last year. We allege she distributed diverted prescription drugs on the streets of Buffalo with no concern for public health. I commend the men and women in the DEA Buffalo Resident Office and the Lackawanna Police Department for their diligence in this investigation and doing all they can do to protect our families from this dangerous threat.”     

“Today’s charges involve a health care professional who, instead of being a healer, acted as a drug dealer,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “Just last week, a jury convicted a local physician of writing over 10,000 illegal prescriptions. Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in this country and we will continue to do our part to prosecute those who contribute to that epidemic.”

The defendant will make an initial appearance at 1:30 p.m. this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy    

The criminal complaint is the culmination of an investigation on the part of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Brian R. Crowell, Special Agent in Charge, New York Division, the Lackawanna Police Department, under the direction of Chief James Michel, the Buffalo Police Department, under the direction of Commissioner Daniel Derenda, and the Erie County Sheriff’s Department, under the direction of Sheriff Timothy Howard.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.


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