Northeast Florida nurse sentenced to 1 year in prison after pleading guilty to replacing fentanyl with saline

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A nurse working at a Florida hospital was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison after pleading guilty earlier this year to stealing fentanyl and replacing the powerful pain medication with saline, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida announced Wednesday.

The court further ordered that after serving her prison sentence, Monique Elizabeth Carter, 36, of Middleburg, will serve one year of home detention as a condition of a two-year term of supervised release, prosecutors said. During this time, according to prosecutors, Carter will also be prohibited from working in any position in which she would have access to prescribed medications.

Carter pleaded guilty on April 13 in Jacksonville federal court to tampering with a consumer product, according to court records.

According to the plea agreement, Carter was working in the neural intensive care unit of Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville in September when a hospital pharmacist examining the ICU wing’s inventory of fentanyl found a syringe missing a tamper-proof cap but with some form of foreign adhesive remaining at the tip. A second fentanyl syringe had a cap that appeared to have been glued back onto the syringe.

A pharmacist supervisor reviewing hospital records found a pattern of Carter checking out doses of fentanyl for patients but then canceling the transactions and checking syringes back into the hospital’s inventory, according to prosecutors. Records showed that Carter did so 24 times over the preceding month.

When confronted with the findings, Carter eventually admitted that she had been stealing the fentanyl for personal use for several months, officials said. Carter denied injecting herself with the drug while on duty, according to prosecutors. Law enforcement officers reported finding needles, saline syringes and adhesive in her bag, prosecutors said.

As a registered nurse, Carter knew that her actions likely resulted in critically ill patients receiving diluted fentanyl that was not safe and effective, prosecutors said. Having been deprived of sterile, medically necessary medication, such patients were exposed to possible infection and endured unnecessary pain and suffering, officials said. Failure to anesthetize or control pain in intensive care unit patients can also increase the risk of illness or death from respiratory, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal complications.