BILLINGS – The former Billings Clinic nurse who was fired last year for allegedly diverting powerful painkillers intended for over 300 patients for his own personal use has indicated he will plead guilty to the charges.
Donald Mills is charged in U.S. District Court in Billings with tampering with consumer products and acquiring Fentanyl by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery and deception.
Mills recently indicated he will plead guilty to the two charges without a plea agreement.
The Drug Enforcement Administration received a report from the Billings Clinic Director of Pharmacy Services in March of last year that an employee at the Atrium Hospital on 10th Avenue North had pilfered 200 milliliters of Fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a highly addictive, powerful painkiller than can be fatal in high doses.
Investigators learned Mills was using a syringe to remove the drug from packaging used in medical procedures at the hospital and replacing it with saline, according to court documents.
A Billings Clinic spokesperson said earlier that over 300 patients were likely affected.
The DEA met with the associate general counsel for Billings Clinic, who provided documents filed with the board of nursing that showed Mills tested positive for Fentanyl in March.
Mills was interviewed when the results came back positive, and he was in possession of a syringe full of Fentanyl, according to court documents. Mills also possessed vials of saline.
A search of Mills locker yielded two additional vials of saline.
An audit of the record keeping machine at the hospital revealed Mills made over 70 null transactions using his login from February through March.
Controlled substances were pulled from the stations and the “Fentanyl did not look quite right,” according to court documents.
During a recorded interview with the DEA, Mills said he was dealing with neck pain and anxiety and he believed he could self-medicate.
Mills admitted he’d been carrying out the diversion scheme since February of 2017. He said he worked an average of four days a week and said he diverted two vials of Fentanyl most days that he worked.
Mills reported taking most of the Fentanyl out of vials using a syringe and replacing it with saline. When he did this, Mills said he made sure patients got a full vial along with whatever he switched out.
He said he injected the drug into his arms while in the bathroom, according to court documents.
The DEA collected vials of Fentanyl that were suspected of tampering. Of the 22 packages of Fentanyl collected, 15 packages no longer contained Fentanyl.
A change of plea hearing is set for May 17.
Prosecutors have not said what sentence they will recommend.
Reporting by Aja Goare for MTN News