Nurse Sentenced to 54 Months for Drug Tampering

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

GREENSBORO – Emilee Kathryn Poteat, 32, of Danville, Virginia, was sentenced today to 54 months in prison for tampering with a consumer product, announced United States Attorney Sandra J. Hairston.

The Poteat indictment, filed in June 2021, charges that from on or about July 1, 2020, continuing up to and including on or about October 28, 2020, the defendant did, 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, tamper and attempt to tamper with a consumer product that affected interstate commerce to wit: three syringes of injectable hydromorphone, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1365(a)(4).

According to court documents, from July to November 2020, Poteat — a registered nurse – 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 Poteat was authorized to access the Pyxes machine located in the CPPU of NHFMC for the purpose of dispensing 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.


From July 2020 through November 2020, Poteat opened container packages containing vials of injectable Hydromorphone that were stored in the Pyxes machine located in the CPPU at NHFMC. She then removed the vials from those container packages and opened the vials for the purpose of converting and consuming the Hydromorphone by injecting the drug into herself.

After removing and converting injectable Hydromorphone, Poteat injected saline solution into the vials so as to conceal her conversion of the drugs and replaced the lids of the vials with glue. Poteat then placed the tampered-with vials which were filled with saline solution 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 and tampered-with vials of injectable Hydromorphone to surgical patients in the CPPU at NHFCMC, despite the fact that such vials did not contain the drug and were filled with potentially contaminated saline solution.

Poteat was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and will face three years of supervised release in addition to her 4-1/2 year prison sentence.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Frank J. Chut, Jr. The United States Food and Drug Administration investigated the case.


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