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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Colorado

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Colorado Nurse Sentenced to Federal Prison for Taking Controlled Substances from Patients

DENVER – Alicia Nickel-Tangeman, age 44, formerly of Woodland Park, Colorado, was sentenced to 12 months in federal prison for obtaining controlled substances using fraud and deception while she was on the job as a Registered Nurse at a hospital in Colorado.  Following her term of incarceration, Nickel-Tangeman will serve one year of supervised release. 

According to court documents, Ms. Nickel-Tangeman used her position as Registered Nurse to access the rooms of patients she was not assigned to care for in a separate unit of a Colorado hospital. The defendant falsely and fraudulently told patients that she was conducting a “study” on the effectiveness of Patient-Controlled Analgesia (PCA) pumps, which deliver controlled substances to hospital patients to relieve pain on-demand when the patient pushes a button.  The defendant then used a key to open the machine that secured the syringe of hydromorphone that was to be dispensed to the patient. The defendant removed a portion of the drug from the syringe, which she kept, then returned the syringe to the patient’s PCA. The defendant illegally obtained controlled substances in this way from three patients on four occasions. When confronted by law enforcement regarding her actions, the defendant lied about the diversions and persisted in her false story that she was engaged in a study with a well-known university. The defendant engaged in obstructionist conduct by producing to law enforcement a false e-mail that she stated came from a friend who asked her to participate in the research.  The defendant created the false e-mail herself using a fictitious e-mail account she created in the name of this alleged friend.  

“Medical professionals who criminally abuse their positions of trust will be held accountable,” said United States Attorney Cole Finegan.  “Our office’s priority is to protect the public and the health care system our citizens rely upon for their medical care.”

“The FDA oversees the U.S. drug supply to ensure that it is safe and effective, and those health care professionals who fraudulently obtain needed medicines from patients put those patients’ health at risk,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles L. Grinstead, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Kansas City Field Office. “Today’s announcement should serve as a reminder that such conduct will not be tolerated.”

"The results of this investigation and corresponding sentence of Ms. Nickel-Tangeman reveal once more the seriousness of the overdose epidemic and opioid crisis facing our nation when even a nurse is susceptible to the temptation these drugs provide," said DEA Denver Acting Special Agent in Charge David Olesky. 

U.S. District Court Judge Christine M. Arguello issued the sentence on November 30, 2021.  

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Assistant United States Attorney Anna Edgar prosecuted this matter.

Case No.  21-cr-00214-CMA

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Topic(s): 
Opioids
Component(s): 
Updated December 1, 2021