BOSTON -- A Dighton registered nurse charged with drug tampering has pleaded guilty in federal court.

Marietta Strickland, 61, admitted Friday to one count of tampering with a consumer product -- namely, oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance.

While working as a registered nurse at Dighton Care and Rehabilitation Center, Strickland tampered with three blister card packages of oxycodone prescribed to an 89-year-old hospice patient who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, severe dementia and breast cancer. To avoid detection, Strickland replaced the stolen oxycodone pills with other prescription drugs disguised to look like oxycodone,

As a result of Strickland’s tampering, the victim was deprived of her prescribed pain medicine for a month and ingested at least 77 unnecessary pills, according to a media release from the Office of U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.

tatistics from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the American Nurses Association suggest that about 10 percent of health care workers are abusing drugs. A major driver of diversion is opioid abuse, according to the DEA.The charging statute provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 19, 2021. Strickland was charged by Information in June 2020.

Lelling joined investigators with the FDA, the DHHS, the Office of the Inspector General, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in making the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elysa Wan of Lelling’s Health Care Fraud Unit prosecuted the case.

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