Law

A former Billings Clinic nurse is denying charges he took fentanyl intended for patients and replaced it with saline.

Donald Friedlich Mills III, pleaded not guilty to two counts in U.S. District Court on Tuesday. Mills is charged with tampering with consumer products and acquiring fentanyl by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery and deception. He was released on his own recognizance.

Mills was fired from Billings Clinic earlier this year after telling hospital administrators he took fentanyl intended for patients and replaced it with saline. Mills was confronted after a colleague noticed irregularities in the automated secure cabinet in which hospitals store controlled substances.

The colleague informed his supervisor, and the nurse was pulled in for an interview.

"Actually, he was very forthcoming," said Camilla Saberhagen, a doctor and the chief quality and patient safety officer at Billings Clinic.

Mills told administrators he’d begun taking the fentanyl from hospital stores in November for his own neck and shoulder pain, according to a complaint filed with the Montana Board of Nursing. 

The Montana Board of Nursing revoked Mills’ license on June 10, according to an online nurse license registry the state uses, www.nursys.com

In the last decade and a half, Billings Clinic has dismissed two nurses for stealing narcotics, once in 2003 and again in 2010, according to Gazette archives.

In July 2010, Jennifer Asay lost her license after she was accused of stealing narcotics. A nurse supervisor reported Asay to the state nursing board in July 2009 after a secure narcotics container was tampered with on two occasions.

In April 2003, Jenny Laughery, also known as Jenny McCann or Jenny Williams, admitted she stole the painkillers Percocet, Dilaudid and Demerol. She also admitted to altering medication distribution sheets in an attempt to hide the thefts.

She was sentenced to probation in U.S. District Court.

Mills’ trial date is set for Jan. 8, 2018.

Tampering is punishable by 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. The drug charge is punishable by four years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

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Justice Reporter

Justice reporter for the Billings Gazette.