A Florida registered nurse pleaded guilty to stealing nearly 450 vials of fentanyl and replacing them with saline while working at an outpatient surgery center.
Catherine Shannon Dunton, 54, stole the fentanyl intended to be used for patients’ pain management and injected it into herself, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida said. She pleaded guilty to tampering with a consumer product this week.
She worked as a circulating nurse at Jensen Beach in Martin County, where she was hired in 2021. Dunton stole the fentanyl between February and April 2022. Her license was suspended last August under an emergency order, records from the state health department show.
She faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, and is set to be sentenced in June.
Dunton reported switching fentanyl and morphine for saline vials “two to three days a week,” and experienced withdrawal during her weekends off, according to an investigation by the Florida Department of Health.
“Ms. Dunton admitted that she knew there were occasions where the patients would only receive the saline,” a state emergency restriction order said.
PREVIOUSLY:Nurse charged with fentanyl tampering
According to a spokesperson for The Surgery Center where Dunton worked, the nurse’s actions didn’t affect patients.
“This situation did not impact any medication delivery to our patients, and the individual responsible is no longer employed at our center,” Shelly Weiss previously told Treasure Coast Newspapers, part of the USA TODAY Network, when Dunton was charged.
A liquid form of fentanyl is used by medical providers “to keep patients from moving during surgery and relieve their pain,” the FDA said in a statement when Dunton was indicted in December.
Records show Dunton has a history of substance abuse issues, including a previous temporary suspension of her license for testing positive for fentanyl in her system. She reported that she completed an alcohol and drug treatment program in May 2022.
During an evaluation in 2022, Dunton also told a doctor she “diverted Demerol, morphine, fentanyl, and Percocet for her personal use” while working at a different medical center 2008, the emergency order to suspend her license says.
Contributing: Mauricio La Plante, Treasure Coast Newspapers