Illinois Nurse Sentenced to Six Years in Federal Prison for Using Patients’ Morphine

Kandis Mills, 47, who worked as a registered nurse at a health care facility, was sentenced on March 19, 2021, to serve six years in federal prison for tampering with morphine intended for hospice patients and using it herself. Mills was ordered to report to the federal Bureau of Prisons on May 25, 2021, to begin serving her prison term, and to remain on supervised release for three years following her release from prison.

“This case shows both the devasting harm caused by opioid addiction to include almost unforgivable collateral damage inflicted on our most vulnerable citizens and also the importance of strictly following narcotic medicine storage and audit rules,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Douglas J.  Quivey. “Unfortunately, medical providers are at heightened risk of addiction and protocols must be strictly followed.”

FBI Springfield Special Agent in Charge Sean M. Cox stated, “ Registered Nurses are some of our most trusted professionals in the health care industry. Unfortunately, this case is representative of the dangers associated with addiction. When an individual does not seek help, they endanger the lives of those whom they entered the profession to protect. Tampering with prescription medication is taken very seriously by the FBI. We will use all available resources to bring to justice those who intentionally jeopardize the health of others.”

“This defendant violated the trust given to those who care for the sick and vulnerable,” said Illinois State Police Director Brendan F. Kelly. “I thank our ISP Special Agents, as well as our federal partners, and, most importantly, the witnesses that stepped up to help us seek justice,” he concluded.

Mills pleaded guilty on Oct. 26, 2020, to two counts of tampering with consumer products, specifically bottles of morphine. Starting in May 2018 and continuing until early August 2018,   Mills worked as a registered nurse at Illini Heritage Rehab and Health Care in Champaign, Ill.

According to court documents, on July 20, 2018, a standard internal audit at the facility found an emergency medication control box did not contain the bottle of morphine. In addition, nine tablets of opioid medication were missing.

A different nurse reported on July 23, 2018, that a patient’s morphine bottle appeared to have been tampered with – the dropper was not in the packaging, the bottle had been opened, and the color of the medication was lighter than normal. In addition, the bottle appeared to contain more liquid than it should have. Two nurses at the center also reported to a supervisor that Mills seemed lethargic, was slurring her words, and staring into space.

On Aug. 4, 2018, staff at the facility discovered another emergency medication control box had been tampered with. Specifically, the bottle of morphine, while intact, the flap on its box appeared to be bent and the safety seal had multiple puncture holes.

On Aug. 5, 2018, Mills’ employment with Illini Heritage was terminated. When interviewed by investigators, Mills admitted to consuming residents’ morphine, infrequently at first, but eventually daily. Mills admitted that she used the morphine and then diluted the morphine bottle with tap water from a sink  Staff at the facility recalled patients who Mills admitted stealing morphine from had experienced difficulty with pain management near the end of their lives.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation Springfield Division and the Illinois State Police Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanner K. Jacobs represented the government at sentencing.

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