VA nurse sentenced for stealing opioids

By: Staff report

RALEIGH — A Fayetteville man has been sentenced to three years’ probation and 90 days house arrest after he pleaded guilty to the diversion and theft of opioid drugs from the Fayetteville VA Medical Center.

The sentence for Aaron Wayne Pickrell, 50, was handed down by United States District Judge James C. Dever III, United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr. announced Tuesday.

Pickrell was named in a five-count indictment filed on Dec. 12. He pleaded guilty on March 20 to obtaining a controlled substance through forgery, fraud, deception, and subterfuge.

On Feb. 28, 2018, authorities received information from an informant indicating that Pickrell, a registered nurse at the VA Medical Center in Fayetteville, was diverting controlled substances for his own use. On March 1, 2018, investigators met with Pickrell’s supervisor and learned he was assigned to the Intensive Care Unit, but worked in different sections of the medical center as needed.

A review of hospital records revealed that Pickrell had submitted requests through the automated prescription delivery system, fraudulently indicating that a physician had given orders for Hydromorphone, also known as Dilaudid, to be administered to patients, according to Higdon. As a result, he gained access to the VA’s automated dispensing pharmacy system to obtain the opioid painkiller for his own purposes.

On March 2, 2018, agents with the VA’s Inspector General’s Office interviewed Pickrell and he admitted that he had diverted Hydromorphone for his own use the past two to three years, according to Higdon. An audit revealed that Pickrell had diverted 5,930 milligrams of Hydromorphone between Jan. 1, 2015, and May 1, 2018.

Pickrell was terminated by the medical center on March 5, 2018.

The investigation was conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Scott A. Lemmon represented the government during court proceedings.

Staff report