GREENSBORO, N.C. (WFXR) — A registered nurse from Danville was sentenced on Wednesday to 54 months in prison for reportedly tampering with a consumer product while working at a North Carolina hospital.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina, the indictment was filed in June 2021, saying that 32-year-old Emilee Kathryn Poteat — “with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of bodily injury and under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to such risk” — tampered and tried to tamper with a consumer product that “affected interstate commerce to wit: three syringes of injectable hydromorphone.”

According to court documents, from July 2020 to November 2020, Poteat was employed as a contract nurse in the Clinical Pre/Post Procedure Unit (CPPU) at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center (NHFMC) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In that capacity, she was authorized to access the CPPU’s Pyxes machine in order to dispense controlled substances, including injectable hydromorphone, to patients at the direction of prescribing doctors.

A Pyxes machine is a device used to securely store controlled medications and prevent unauthorized access to such substances. Controlled substances are stored in locked drawers which require entry of both a fingerprint and a password before authorized medical personal can open the drawers to withdraw a controlled substance. Further, a nurse or other authorized person must enter specific prescription information for an actual patient to access prescribed substances secured in the Pyxes machine. Vials of drugs stored in the Pyxes machine at NHFMC were held in container packages with each individual vial sealed with tamper evident seals and caps.

Statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina on June 1, 2022

From July 2020 through November 2020, officials say Poteat opened container packages containing vials of injectable hydromorphone that were stored in the CPPU’s Pyxes machine. She then removed the vials from those container packages and opened the vials in order to inject the drug into herself.

After that, Poteat reportedly injected saline solution into the vials; replaced the lids with glue; placed the tampered vials into the opened container packages; closed and re-sealed the container packages; and then left those container packages in the locked and secured Pyxes machine, knowing that CPPU nurses might administer the compromised vials to surgical patients.

In addition to her 4.5 year prison sentence, officials say Poteat was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and will face three years of supervised release.

This news comes after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia announced in February that Poteat was sentenced to three years in federal prison for tampering with fentanyl and hydromorphone, as well as making false statements, while working at Sovah Health-Danville.