DENVER – A Colorado nurse was sentenced to prison for abusing his position of trust by taking fentanyl from a hospital to use while on the job. Advanced Nurse Practitioner and Registered Nurse Kurt Vasquez, 41, was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for illegally obtaining fentanyl through fraud and deception while working in the catheterization lab at a hospital.
Vasquez was a contract nurse placed at a hospital in summer 2019. Shortly after his placement, he began executing a plan to obtain fentanyl, midazolam, and propofol for his personal use. Between June 2019 and September 2019, he obtained more drugs than was necessary for scheduled procedures and then kept the drugs for himself. On some occasions, he also falsely documented in patient charts that he had administered drugs that were not actually administered. The defendant also took filled syringes, used the drugs himself, and then falsely stated that he had used the syringes on a patient. On at least two occasions, the defendant flushed used syringes and vials down a toilet, which caused flooding in the hospital.
“Vulnerable hospital patients need to trust that they will receive the drugs they are prescribed, and we will prosecute professionals who steal these drugs for their own use,” said Acting United States Attorney Matt Kirsch. “We commend our law enforcement partners for their careful investigation in this matter.”
“The theft of fentanyl by a primary care giver working with patients and using it on the job is a reminder of how bad the opioid epidemic is,” said Deanne Reuter, DEA Denver Division, Special Agent in Charge. “I want to applaud our Diversion Investigators and our partners at the FDA, Office of Criminal Investigations and the U.S. Attorney’s office on their work for this investigation.”
“The FDA oversees the U.S. drug supply to ensure that it is safe and effective, and those who knowingly tamper with medicines put patients’ health at risk,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles L. Grinstead, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Kansas City Field Office. “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.”
The defendant ultimately agreed to work with law enforcement to ensure that no drugs were tampered and to otherwise mitigate the public health risk associated with his crime.
On September 14, 2021, U.S. District Judge Christine M. Arguello sentenced Mr. Vasquez to three months’ imprisonment. The sentence also includes one year of supervised release with conditions requiring 100 hours of community service. The defendant must also make state licensing authorities aware of his conviction and cooperate with their procedures. The government recommended a lower sentence in this case in consideration of the defendant’s confession and cooperation in disclosing everything known about his diversion of drugs, which was a matter potentially affecting the public health and integrity of the health care system. The felony offense in this case had a maximum sentence of four years of imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, per count.
The investigation in this case was conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Assistant United States Attorney Bryan Fields prosecuted the case.
CASE NUMBER: 20-cr-00067-CMA
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