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Former nurse is charged after incident

By JOSH COTTON

jcotton@timesobserver.com

A former hospice nurse faces charges that she filled prescriptions for patients and then stole the substances — morphine, ritalin and oxycodone.

The state’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation under the Office of the Attorney General filed charges against Michele L. Wills, 65, 24 Walnut St., Warren, this week.

Investigators detail in the affidavit of probable cause that they were contacted by staff at Hospice of Warren County on Aug. 24, 2020. Hospice reported that “a registered nurse named Michelle Wills was employed with (the) agency until last month when they had conducted an internal investigation into her suspected drug diversion and had ultimately terminated Wills from her employment after a positive drug test.”

The internal investigation found that Wills “had filled three prescriptions for patients that were not necessary and that she had kept the controlled substances or they believed Wills kept and used the controlled substances based on a drug test Wills submitted to.”

Hospice staff stated that the internal investigation revealed that none of the patients involved were harmed by Wills’ alleged conduct.

Investigators along with the Department of State and the Department of Health subsequently kicked off an investigation, obtaining “limited” medical records.

“During a review of these records” investigators say they “found and identified three incidents of diverted medication; in two of these incidents Wills had used emergency pre-authorized prescriptions to obtain medications and the other she refilled a patient’s medications when it was not necessary.”

The affidavit then details each of those instances, alleging that the prescriptions were filled on July 15, July 22 and July 23.

On the 23rd, investigators allege that “another nurse has found a photocopy in Hospice of Warren County’s copy machine for a morphine prescription refill… that Michelle Wills wrote this prescription for” a patient, per the affidavit. “The medical records showed (the patient’s) morphine had not been administered and would not have needed a refill. Wills explained that she made a mistake and she would call” the pharmacy “to cancel the morphine order.”

Staff then found “an empty box of morphine” with that patient’s name “in the office.” Investigators subsequently learned that Wills had signed for the prescription at pick-up, which she allegedly did for all three incidents.

Total value of the medication was just under $100.

Investigators say the internal investigation resulted in Wills submitting to chemical testing.

“These test results,” the affidavit states, “showed Wills was positive for morphine, methylphenidate (ritalin) and oxycodone” for which she did not have a legal prescription issued to her.

Wills faces a total of seven counts — three felony counts of obtaining a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deceit and/or subterfuge; three misdemeanor counts of procuring a drug for self/other by using a false statement and a single count of theft by deception.

She was arraigned by District Judge Raymond Zydonik on Wednesday and released on $15,000 unsecured bail, online court records show.

A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for March 23 at 11 a.m.

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