Skip to main content
Press Release

Registered Nurse Pleads Guilty to Tampering with Painkillers at Hospital

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan

DETROIT - A registered nurse pled guilty in United States District Court to tampering with vials and syringes of liquid painkiller at the Detroit hospital where she worked, U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced today.    

Ison was joined in the announcement by Acting Special Agent in Charge Ronne G. Malham, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations Chicago Field Office.

According to court documents, Mary Cheatham, 42, of Ypsilanti, Michigan, a registered nurse who previously was employed in the critical care unit at a hospital in Detroit, Michigan, removed vials and syringes of injectable hydromorphone from the medication dispensing machines, by extracting the hydromorphone using syringes, and then replaced the saline filled vials and syringes into the unit’s medication dispensing machines. Cheatham’s tampering took place between March 2020 and August 2020. Cheatham knew the vials and syringes of hydromorphone were intended to be administered to patients for the purpose of pain relief in the critical care unit of the hospital.

“Patients entering a hospital must have confidence they will receive the treatment they are promised,” United States Attorney Ison, stated. “Cheatham violated that trust and potentially exposed patients to unnecessary pain and suffering and must be held accountable for her actions.”

“The FDA oversees the U.S. drug supply to ensure that it is safe and effective, and those who knowingly tamper with medicines put the health of patients at risk,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Ronne G. Malham. “We will continue to protect the public health and bring to justice health care professionals who take advantage of their unique position and compromise their patients’ health and comfort by tampering with needed drugs.”

Cheatham’s sentencing is scheduled for January 18, 2023.  Cheatham faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The Court will determine the sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Regina R. McCullough. The case was investigated by special agents of the Food and Drug Administration.

Updated August 30, 2022

Prescription Drugs