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VETERANS ADMINISTRATION NURSE PLEADS GUILTY TO DRUG DIVERSION

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 10, 2005

JOHNA J. NELIGAN, 43, of Seattle, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to a felony indictment charging her with knowingly and intentionally acquiring a controlled substance by misrepresentation and deception in violation of federal law. Sentencing is scheduled for September 2, 2005, at 1:30.

During 2004 and 2005, NELIGAN was employed as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in the Psychiatric Unit of the VA hospital in Seattle, Washington. As an LPN, her responsibilities included accessing and dispensing controlled substances to patients as authorized by prescriptions and directives received from treating physicians. On a number of occasions during 2004, the defendant took possession of controlled substances at the VA Hospital and concealed and diverted these drugs for her own use. These drugs included narcotic and opiate painkillers, such as Vicoden, Percocet, and other drugs containing Oxycodone intended for prescribed distribution to patients. In taking possession of the drugs as a psychiatric nurse in furtherance of her responsibilities to administer those drugs to patients, and then diverting the drugs to her own use, JOHNA NELIGAN deceived VA officials and employees.

One of these occasions occurred on June 6, 2004, when NELIGAN removed 6 tablets containing Oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance, from the VA, administered 3 tablets to a patient (which the patient was to receive) and then diverted three to her own use by consuming the pills herself.

When confronted by VA officials in January 2005, NELIGAN admitted to the above acts and deception, and opted to seek treatment for her own addiction problems. NELIGAN resigned from her VA employment the same day.

This case was investigated by the Department of Veteran Affairs Office of Inspector General, and is reflective of the ongoing efforts by the U.S. Attorneys Office to insure safe practice and accountability in the health care profession.

For additional information please contact Lawrence Lincoln, United States Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington, at (206) 553-4127.

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