Boulder Nurse Sentenced to Federal Prison for Tampering with a Consumer Product and Creating a Counterfeit Controlled Substance
MAR 05--DENVER – Ashton Paul Daigle, age 28, of Fort Collins, Colorado, was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger to serve 54 months (four and a half years) in federal prison for tampering with a consumer product and creating a counterfeit controlled substance. Daigle worked as a surgery nurse at Boulder Community Hospital. Following his prison sentence, Daigle is to spend 3 years on supervised release. The defendant, who is free on bond, was ordered to report to a facility designated by the Bureau of Prisons on or before April 5, 2010. He was also ordered to not work in the medical field while on supervised release, and to submit to blood testing at the direction of the Probation Office, with the result provided to the government, to check for any communicable diseases. He is also not to contact victims in this case.
Ashton Paul Daigle was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on November 18, 2008. He pled guilty before Judge Krieger on June 1, 2009. He was sentenced today, March 5, 2010.
According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, around the middle of September 2008, Daigle began to use discarded vials and syringes containing Fentanyl that were found in operating room throughout Boulder Community Hospital, where he was employed as a registered nurse. Fentanyl is a narcotic, listed as a Scheduled II controlled substance, and is approximately 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, which is typically used in conjunction with pain management during and after major surgeries.
The hospital maintained vials of Fentanyl in a Pyxis machine, which regulates the dispensing of narcotics only to authorized personnel with access codes. Daigle began to access the machines and withdraw Fentanyl between September 24 and October 24, 2008. To conceal the fact that he was withdrawing the narcotic, the defendant first used sterile needles to withdraw Fentanyl from the vials and replace it with saline solution. He then returned the tampered vials to the Pyxis machine in the original vial with the original labeling representing the vials as containing a specified quantity of Fentanyl, knowing full well he had replaced the contents with saline solution.
As his addiction grew, Daigle used tap water from a bathroom tap to replace the Fentanyl in the vials. He also began to use the same needle he withdrew the Fentanyl from the original vials to inject himself, and in turn used that needle to replace the contents of the vials with either saline solution or unsterile tap water. In order to conceal his conduct he used surgical glue to re-attach the tamper resistant cap just prior to replacing them in the Pyxis machine.
Particularly between October 13 and October 17, 2008, Daigle accessed the Pyxis machine multiple times, as many as 25 times in one day. He found that most of the vials in the Pyxis machine were the tampered and adulterated vials he previously replaced. He knew that during this period of time the patients were likely receiving his counterfeit Fentanyl because he used all the legitimate Fentanyl in the machines. Further, he knew that replacing Fentanyl with saline or tap water would result in patients experiencing extreme pain during and after surgery. He was aware that replacing the Fentanyl with tap water increased the risk of infection or even death to patients because the tap water was unsterile. Finally, Daigle knew that using needles that were unsterile or previously used increased the risk of blood borne pathogens.
There were approximately 290 potential victims of the defendant’s conduct in that those persons likely received what was labeled as Fentanyl was as actually saline or tap water as part of their treatment for surgery and pain management between September 24 and October 24, 2008. Given Daigle’s specific job, he should have never had a reason to access the Fentanyl. A review of the Pyxis machine reports revealed that Daigle accessed the Pyxis machine specifically for Fentanyl at least 108 times during that time period.
“It is critical that we have total confidence in our medical professionals during a surgical procedure,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge in Denver Jeffrey Sweetin. “The conduct of Ashton Daigle has not only diminished that trust, but is very likely to have caused patients to suffer. He will now pay the consequences for his illegal actions.”
“The defendant’s conduct is not only criminal and as such today’s sentence is appropriate, but also is callous and insensitive to the pain and suffering such acts have on innocent and unsuspecting hospital patients,” said U.S. Attorney David Gaouette.
This case was investigated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Boulder Police Department, and the Boulder District Attorney’s Office.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Pena.