DANVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — According to United States Attorney’s Office Western District of Virginia, a former registered nurse working at Sovah Health-Danville was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison for tampering with fentanyl and hydromorphone and making false statements.

The sentencing took place Friday, Feb. 4 after 31-year-old Emilee Kathryn Poteat pleaded guilty in May 2021 to one count of tampering with consumer products (fentanyl and hydromorphone) that affect interstate commerce, with one count of reckless disregard for the risk that another person be placed in danger of death or bodily injury, and one count of making false statements.

“Those who are trusted to keep opioids and other pain medications secure must be held to the highest standards possible,” said United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh. “When those individuals break that trust, the United States Attorney’s Office will hold them accountable to ensure the public’s trust in our medical institutions.”

Special Agent in Charge Mark S. McCormack of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations added, “Health care professionals who steal needed medications from their patients put those patients at increased risk of harm and create a disruption in the legal drug supply chain.”

According to court documents, beginning in January of 2020, Poteat diverted and tampered with fentanyl vials and hydromorphone injectables, also known as Dilaudid, intended for patients at Sovah Health-Danville.

On May 19, 2020, it was discovered the tops of several vials of fentanyl stored in an AcuDose machine on one of the hospital floors had apparently been removed and tampered with.

It appeared as if the tops had been removed and an attempt to superglue the tops back onto the vials was made.

In order to access an AcuDose machine, each registered nurse must enter their own unique code and a review of the machine revealed Poteat was the only employee who accessed the drawer where the tampered vials were found. 

On May 28, 2020, Poteat was interviewed by law enforcement in which she denied tampering with any controlled substances and said she did not drink alcohol or use drugs.

She continued to deny any involvement in a subsequent interview with law enforcement on June 28, 2020.

It wasn’t until her interview with the Virginia Department of Health Professions after being terminated from  Sovah Health-Danville, Poteat admitted that she had a substance abuse problem, self-medicated with opioids, and diverted the fentanyl and hydromorphone she accessed at Sovah Health-Danville for her own use.

The Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Virginia Department of Health Professions took part in the investigation of this case.