Registered Nurses, Formerly Employed by Hospice Care Provider, Indicted on Federal Prescription Opioid Conspiracy Charges
Defendants Prosecuted as Part of HOPE Initiative which Seeks to Reduce the Number of Opioid-Related Deaths in New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE – Two registered nurses, formerly employed by an Albuquerque-area hospice care provider, have been indicted on federal prescription opioid conspiracy charges, announced U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez and Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of DEA’s El Paso Division.
Desiree Ulibarri, 30, and Annabel Debari, 35, both of Albuquerque, N.M., are charged in a two-count indictment with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and conspiracy to acquire and obtain oxycodone by fraud and deceit. The indictment alleges that the two women, both of whom are registered nurses, committed the crimes in Bernalillo County, N.M., between April 2016 and July 2016.
Ulibarri, who was arrested on a criminal complaint on July 25, 2016, was arraigned on the indictment in federal court this morning, and entered a not guilty plea. Debari is scheduled for arraignment on Sept. 7, 2016.
According to court filings, the investigation of this case began on July 21, 2016, after Ulibarri’s employer, a hospice care provider, contacted DEA to report suspicions that Ulibarri was engaged in prescription pill diversion. The employer became suspicious because Ulibarri allegedly was documenting patients’ prescriptions in a way that made it difficult to reconcile the medications and because Ulibarri allegedly was picking up patients’ prescription pills at Federal Express instead of having the medication delivered to the patients.
On July 22, 2016, DEA agents allegedly obtained 80 10-mg oxycodone pills from Ulibarri, which she allegedly obtained from packages she retrieved from Federal Express. When DEA agents conducted a consensual search of Ulibarri’s cellular phone, they allegedly found evidence that Ulibarri had been conspiring with a co-worker, who is also a registered nurse, to illegally distribute prescription pills since April 2016. Additionally, a review of records of missing packages allegedly revealed that at least 3,870 pills, an aggregate of 42,150 mgs of oxycodone, had been diverted during the course of the conspiracy.
Ulibarri and Debari each face a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison if found guilty of conspiracy to distribute prescription opioids. If convicted of conspiracy to acquire the prescription opioids by fraud or deceit, they each face up to four years in prison. Charges in indictments and criminal complaints are merely accusations, and criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was investigated by the Tactical Diversion Squad of the DEA in Albuquerque. DEA’s Tactical Diversion Squads combine DEA resources with those of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in an innovative effort to investigate, disrupt and dismantle those suspected of violating the Controlled Substances Act or other appropriate federal, state or local statutes pertaining to the diversion of licit pharmaceutical controlled substances or listed chemicals.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joel R. Meyers and Alexander M. Uballez are prosecuting the case pursuant to the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative. The HOPE Initiative was launched in January 2015 by the UNM Health Sciences Center and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in response to the national opioid epidemic, which has had a disproportionately devastating impact on New Mexico. Opioid addiction has taken a toll on public safety, public health and the economic viability of our communities. Working in partnership with the DEA, the Bernalillo County Opioid Accountability Initiative, Healing Addiction in our Community (HAC), the Albuquerque Public Schools and other community stakeholders, HOPE’s principal goals are to protect our communities from the dangers associated with heroin and opioid painkillers and reducing the number of opioid-related deaths in New Mexico.
The HOPE Initiative is comprised of five components: (1) prevention and education; (2) treatment; (3) law enforcement; (4) reentry; and (5) strategic planning. HOPE’s law enforcement component is led by the Organized Crime Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA in conjunction with their federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partners. Targeting members of major heroin and opioid trafficking organizations for investigation and prosecution is a priority of the HOPE Initiative. Learn more about the New Mexico HOPE Initiative at http://www.HopeInitiativeNM.org.