DENVER (CBS4) — Two Colorado women were in Denver federal court last week concerning their alleged thefts of controlled substances while employed as hospital nurses.
The drugs were taken illegally while the two nurses administered medication to patients, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado (USACO).
The nurses were identified as Alicia Nickel-Tangeman, 44, formerly of Woodland Park, and Katie Muhs, 34, of Littleton.
Muhs was employed as a registered nurse in an Intensive Care Unit where she diverted fentanyl, a schedule II controlled substance, for her own personal use. She stole the drug between June and September of 2019 by removing it from the IV bags of ventilated patients, according to prosecutors. She also siphoned off excess drug from near-empty vials and replaced it with saline during the disposal process.
“(Muhs) specifically admitted that on September 8, 2019, she removed a bag of fentanyl from the automated medication control machine at the hospital under a different nurse’s login credentials. She then removed fentanyl from the IV bag for personal use,” stated a USACO press release issued Saturday.
A search of online public records discovered Muhs’s nursing license was revoked by the state in October 2019.
The federal case against her was filed in December 2020.
In April, the Colorado Court of Appeals denied her request for unemployment benefits. Court documents reveal that Muhs at the time was employed by Catholic Health Initiatives, a national network that operates Centura Health hospitals in Colorado, including two St. Anthony’s hospitals in the metro area.
Friday, Muhs was sentenced to three years probation. She faced four years imprisonment and a quarter million dollar fine for her felony offense, but her cooperation and full disclosure of her actions benefitted the secure handling of the drug in the future, according to the USACO, and the judge took that into account during sentencing.
Thursday, Nickel-Tangeman pleaded guilty to four counts of the same felony.
Nickel-Tangeman gained access to patients she was not assigned to care for and removed hydromorphone from their on-demand pain treatment delivery systems. She did this four times, according to prosecutors.
When she was confronted by authorities, Nickel-Tangeman said she was conducting research for a university. Prosecutors detailed how she created a fake email account to produce a document supporting her claim.
Public records show Nickel-Tangeman was sanctioned by the state in June 2019. Her LinkedIn profile shows her 17-year employment with the UCHealth system ended in May of that year. UCHealth has several facilities in Colorado Springs including Memorial Hospital.
Court records indicate Nickel-Tangeman recently moved to Massachusetts.
Her sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 30.