By Logan Smith

DENVER (CBS4) – A 41-year-old registered nurse was sentenced to three months in prison Thursday following an investigation by federal authorities into his theft and personal use of drugs intended for his hospital’s patients. Kurt Vasquez began acquiring fentanyl, midazolam and propofol — all defined legally as controlled substances — during his employment as a contract nurse at an unidentified Colorado hospital.

(credit: CBS)

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Federal investigators determined Vasquez obtained more drugs than was necessary for scheduled procedures and then kept the drugs for himself between June and September of 2019. At times, Vasquez fraudulently filled out patient charts to cover up his activity.

Vasquez “also took filled syringes, used the drugs himself, and then falsely stated that he had used the syringes on a patient,” stated a press release from the District of Colorado’s Office of the U.S. Attorney General. “On at least two occasions, the defendant flushed used syringes and vials down a toilet, which caused flooding in the hospital.”

A grand jury handed down an indictment in February of 2020, according to case documents. A warrant for Vasquez’s arrest was issued the same day. He was detained less than two weeks later.

“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.

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“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.

The court documents obtained by CBS4 do not explain how authorities came to realize Vasquez’s thefts. The indictment, however, discloses that Vasquez told federal investigators from the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency “the only thing I took from [HOSPITAL] was propofol” and “I wasn’t taking it at work” while facts of the case showed otherwise.

Vasquez reached a plea agreement with prosecutors last May. He faced up to four years in prison and quarter million dollar fine for each count against him. But prosecutors recommended a lighter sentence due to Vasquez’s cooperation toward the prevention of future drug thefts.

“The defendant ultimately agreed to work with law enforcement to ensure that no drugs were tampered and to otherwise mitigate the public health risks associated with his crime,” the press release stated.

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In an online search, CBS4 found a nurse named Kurt Vasquez who has worked in Centura Health facilities in Pueblo and Littleton. A spokesman for the hospital system, Kevin Massey, told CBS4 Monday that Vasquez has not been employed by Centura Health since May 2019.

Logan Smith