SNOHOMISH NURSE PLEADS GUILTY TO STEALING PAIN MEDICATION FROM NURSING HOME
Nurse Stole Morphine, Diluted Vials with Water, and Replaced Them to Conceal Scheme
JOLENE LARSEN, 38, a Licenced Practical Nurse (LPN) at a Snohomish, Washington, nursing home, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to tampering with consumer products. In her plea agreement LARSEN admits that between November 2009, and May 2010, she removed morphine sulphate from prescription vials and replaced it with tap water. LARSEN then consumed the morphine. LARSEN faces up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine when sentenced by U.S. District Judge James L. Robart on January 31, 2011.
According to the plea agreement, LARSEN had worked at Merry Haven Care Center in Snohomish, Washington, for 14 years. Merry Haven is a nursing home and provides nursing services for long-term residents, rehabilitation services for individuals recovering from illnesses or surgery, and hospice for end-of-life patients. LARSEN was a supervisor at the facility, overseeing a unit of patients and a group of nurses. LARSEN was one of a limited number of people with access to a secure lock box for narcotic medications. One of her other responsibilities was the disposal of certain medications after patients no longer needed them. LARSEN was to fill out paperwork recording that medications had been properly destroyed.
On multiple occasions, LARSEN removed morphine sulfate from vials intended for patients and replaced the morphine with tap water. The morphine is removed from the vial with a syringe, but is taken orally. In at least one instance, the diluted morphine was administered to a patient. The patient’s pain was not treated until additional pain medication was provided. In another instance, an alert nurse noticed that the color of the morphine sulphate was lighter that it should be, so she used a different vial for the patient. Additionally, LARSEN admitted she took morphine from the medications that were to be destroyed and consumed it.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI).
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Karyn Johnson.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.