WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WNCN) – The U.S. Attorney’s Office Middle District of North Carolina announced a nurse from Danville, Virginia, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for drug tampering while working at a hospital in North Carolina.

From July 2020 through November 2020, court documents said 32-year-old Emilee Kathryn Poteat opened container packages containing vials of injectable Hydromorphone that were stored in Pyxes machines at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem.

Court documents said Poteat was contracted as a registered nurse in the Clinical Pre/Post Procedure Unit during this time. Those documents said she opened the vials to inject the Hydromorphone into herself.

Hydromorphone is a narcotic used to treat moderate to severe pain.

The attorney’s office said that in her role, Poteat was authorized to have access to a Pyxes machine located in the CPPU at NHFMC. The office said this was for the purpose of dispensing controlled substances, including injectable Hydromorphone, at the direction of prescribing doctors.

A Pyxes machine is meant to securely store controlled medications and prevent unauthorized
access to such substances.

To open it, authorized users scan their fingerprint and enter a password. The attorney’s office said authorized users are required to enter specific prescription information. The attorney’s office said vials of drugs were sealed with tamper-evident seals and caps., and it was proven Poteat tampered with said seals.

Court documents said Poteat injected saline solution into the vials and re-sealed the vials with glue in an attempt to hide the stolen drugs. Investigators said Poteat placed the vials back into the machines knowing other nurses might use those tampered vials on surgical patients.

Once proven the vials had been tampered with, Poteat was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and will face three years of supervised release in addition to her prison sentence.