Deborah Riggs, a narcotics charge nurse at Halstead Health and Rehabilitation Center in Kansas, pleaded guilty on December 13, 2010 to one count of consumer product tampering and one count of adulteration of a drug. She faces up to ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 on the tampering charge and up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000 on the adulteration count. Under the plea deal, the other charges against Riggs have been dropped. Sentencing is set for March 7, 2011.
Officials at the nursing home facility reportedly noticed broken seals on the morphine-based solution bottles and sent them to a lab for testing; nursing home officials also alerted federal authorities of a potential drug tampering problem.
As a narcotics charge nurse, Riggs was in a position of authority. She held keys to the narcotic medications room and cabinet where the drugs were stored. According to information in Riggs’ plea agreement, she acknowledged that she diluted between 32% and 62% of morphine sulfate solutions and replaced it with another substance in December 2009.
Riggs has had problems with controlled substances in the past. According to information in the Kansas City Star, Riggs has a history of convictions and nursing license suspensions for mismanaging or stealing controlled substances.
Riggs was convicted in federal court in 1998 of felony possession of a controlled substances by fraud. She was sentenced to four months of home detention and two years’ probation in that conviction. Her nursing license was suspended in February 2000 for forging prescriptions; unfortunately, her suspension was stayed and Riggs was allowed to continue working as a nurse.
In 2008, Riggs’ nursing license was suspended again for drug abuse and narcotic theft that occurred while she was working as a nurse at a Wichita, Kansas hospital. Once again, the Kansas Board of Nursing stayed Riggs’ suspension and allowed her to continue working.