A former Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) nurse pleaded guilty to stealing narcotics directly out of syringes, according to a Wednesday announcement from the Department of Justice.
The exact charges include tampering with a consumer product and taking narcotics by deception.
30-year-old Nathan Baum secretly stole oxycodone hydrochloride from the Albany-Stratton VA medical center over the course of about a month from April 8, 2014, to May 16, 2014 to continue his addiction. This is the same medical center where former VA executive Linda Weiss, who recently won her appeal before the Merit Systems Protection Board to stay employed at the agency, works.
Oxycodone is extremely addictive and is used to treat severe pain. To cover his tracks, Baum replaced the oxycodone with haloperidol, an anti-psychotic. This anti-psychotic, of course, would do nothing for patient pain.
The scheme didn’t last very long. His supervisor noticed Baum was beginning to slur his speech and had the obvious signs of opioid use like pinpoint pupils.
Federal agents then went through Baum’s locker and realized that three syringes had been modified. That’s when Baum caved and admitted he was addicted to opioids.
“To satisfy his addiction, the defendant stole pain medicine intended for veterans in hospice care and tried to hide his crime by replacing that medicine with anti-psychotic medicine that would not have eased their pain,” said U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian. “In committing this terrible crime, Baum betrayed his patients and their loved ones, the nursing profession, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
Baum will receive sentencing June 22. He’s facing serious charges — tampering with a consumer product alone results in a max sentence of 10 years and a possible fine of up to $250,000. And obtaining narcotics by deception carries a max sentence of four years and a fine of up to $250,000.
“We utilize strong internal quality controls that help us identify those individuals who fail to meet our mission and appreciate the support of law enforcement and justice partners in upholding and enforcing our standards,” officials at the Stratton VA medical center said in a statement, according to the Times Union.
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