VA Medical Center Nurse Pleads Guilty for Stealing Narcotics
The drugs, including fentanyl, were for nurse’s personal use
DENVER – Erick Lee Tombre, age 46, of Denver, a registered nurse in the State of Colorado, pled guilty today for acquiring and attempting to obtain controlled substances, including hydromorphone, by deception and subterfuge, U.S. Attorney Jason R. Dunn and Veterans Affairs Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Inspector General Gregg Hirstein announced. The guilty plea was tendered before Senior U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Blackburn.
Tombre was first charged by Information on November 9, 2018. He pled guilty today, December 12, 2018. He is free on bond, and will be sentenced by Judge Blackburn on April 2, 2018.
According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, Tombre, who obtained his license as a registered nurse in the State of Colorado in April 2012, started work at the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in January 2014. As a nurse, the defendant had access to an automated system that dispensed controlled substances. The system requires an individual to log-in to withdraw drugs and documents all transactions. Drugs are to be withdrawn only for patient administration based on a doctor’s orders.
Tombre’s diversion was initially uncovered by a VAMC controlled substance transaction audit in February 2017. That audit showed unusual and unaccounted for controlled substance withdrawals, including for example, the defendant’s withdrawal of hydromorphone for the same patient three times in one hour, documenting only one of the three doses as being administered to the patient. The audit also determined that Tombre withdrew more than twice the amount of fentanyl than the next highest health care provider in his until. He had the highest withdrawal of any provider for hydromorphone 2 mg syringes.
During the investigation, Tombre admitted that he had diverted controlled substances for “a couple of years” and most frequently took and used hydromorphone but also took and used fentanyl. He stated he would steal the drugs by drawing up into a syringe the “waste” remaining after patient administration. He would “waste”, or discard, saline instead of the drug and keep the extra drug he diverted. Tombre stated that on an average shift he would waste saline and take home one or two half-full syringes.
The investigation revealed no evidence of patient harm.
Tombre faces not more than 4 years imprisonment, and a fine of up to $250,000. This case was investigated by the VA Office of Inspector General, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Edgar.