Former hospital employee accused of stealing prescription medication

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All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

(Riverton, WY) – Riverton resident Maria Peterson, 48, faces three felony and two misdemeanor charges for incidents allegedly occurring from August to October of 2020.

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The charges include: two counts of felony possession of hydrocodone, one count of felony possession of oxycodone, one count of misdemeanor possession of hydrocodone, and one count of misdemeanor theft.

Peterson, a former pharmacy technician at a Riverton hospital, faces these charges after she had been allegedly caught stealing prescription medications over a three month period during her employment.

Peterson waived her preliminary hearing and the case now moves on to District Court, with an arraignment date set for November 9th.

On January 15th of 2020, a special agent for the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) was contacted regarding a case of theft occurring at a local medical facility.

The agent learned that the Riverton Police Department had received reports of an employee at the hospital, Peterson, who had been stealing prescription medications in the amount of “approximately 1,285 narcotic tablets.”

According to court documents, Peterson’s employment entailed transferring medication from one location to another within the hospital using dispensing machines.

The reported thefts involved Peterson “removing tablets of varying weights from the pharmacy or medicine cabinets and signing them out electronically, or by initialling a paper log.”

The hospital tracks the medications through the use of paper and electronic logs, enabling them to trace when filed pills were unaccounted for.

The tablets taken this way “consisted of a mixture of either Oxycodone or Hydrocodone with Acetaminophen (commonly known as Tylenol and shortened to APAP).”

Court documents indicate three specific dates, August 11th, September 2nd, and October 5th, where Peterson allegedly signed for and removed 60 unaccounted for tablets of various weights, totalling more than three grams for each controlled substance.

Because Peterson allegedly took and was in possession of the mentioned tablets on the reported dates, and pursuant to Wyoming Statute 35-7-1031(d), she was therefore “in possession of greater than 3 grams of those controlled substances.”

On February 25th, 2021, the DCI special agent made contact with Peterson, who informed him that she started working at the hospital as a pharmacy technician in June of 2020, and was terminated from that position in November.

Peterson informed the agent that she was told by her employers that there were “missing medications,” and was requested to submit to a blood test “to determine if she had any “drugs” in her system.”

Peterson then reportedly stated that she had tested positive for opiates.

Peterson also alleged that she was on prescription opiates prior to her employment at the hospital, but had run out of the 20 tablets she was given for recovery “way” before the testing in November.

When asked where she got the opiates that she tested positive for, Peterson then reportedly admitted to taking “some” prescription medications from the hospital, “but not the 1,200 pills reported.”

She continued to state that she would take one or two pills “here and there,” once or twice a week over the course of a few weeks, and also alleged she would “consume the medication, and did not give them out to anyone.”

Peterson could not provide an estimate as to how many pills she thought she had taken in total, but reportedly stated that she was taking “anywhere from six to eight pills a day.”

County 10 reached out to SageWest, who provided the following comment:

“SageWest Health Care is committed to providinghigh quality care and service to our patients. We take any allegation related to an employee very seriously and cooperate fully with the investigating authorities. Due to confidentiality, we cannot provide information related to this situation or any employee matter. Thank you for understanding.”

Peterson’s arraignment date has been set for November 9th.

The maximum penalty for a felony possession of hydrocodone charge is seven years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine.

The maximum penalty for a felony possession of oxycodone charge is seven years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine.

The maximum penalty for a possession of hydrocodone misdemeanor charge is 12 months imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.

The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor theft charge is six months imprisonment and $750 fine.

County 10 will provide more update on the case as it progresses, which can be found here.

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