All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court.
(Riverton, Wyoming) – Riverton resident Maria Peterson, 48, faces three felony counts and two misdemeanors for incidents believed to have occurred from August to October 2020.
The counts include: two counts of criminal possession of hydrocodone, one count of criminal possession of oxycodone, one count of misdemeanor possession of hydrocodone and one count of misdemeanor theft.
Peterson, a former pharmacy technician at a Riverton hospital, faces the charges after she was allegedly caught stealing prescription drugs over a three-month period during her employment.
Peterson has waived his preliminary hearing and the case is now moving to district court, with an arraignment date set for Nov. 9.
On January 15, 2020, a special agent from the Wyoming Criminal Investigation Division (DCI) was contacted regarding a case of theft at a local medical facility.
The officer learned that the Riverton Police Department had received reports of a hospital employee, Peterson, who had stolen prescription drugs in the amount of “approximately 1,285 narcotic pills.”
According to court documents, Peterson’s job involved transferring drugs from one location to another within the hospital using vending machines.
The reported thefts involved Peterson “removing tablets of varying weight from the drugstore or medicine cabinets and signing them electronically, or initialing a paper journal”.
The hospital tracks medications through the use of paper and electronic diaries, allowing them to track when classified pills have not been found.
The tablets taken this way “consisted of a mixture of oxycodone or hydrocodone with acetaminophen (commonly known as Tylenol and abbreviated as APAP)”.
Court documents show three specific dates, August 11, September 2 and October 5, when Peterson allegedly signed and removed 60 tablets of different weights, totaling more than three grams for each controlled substance.
Because Peterson allegedly took and was in possession of the mentioned tablets on the dates indicated, and in accordance with Wyoming Law 35-7-1031 (d), she was therefore “in possession of more than 3 grams of these controlled substances.”
On February 25, 2021, DCI’s special agent contacted Peterson, who informed her that she had started working at the hospital as a pharmacy technician in June 2020 and had been fired from this post in November.
Peterson informed the agent that her employers told her there were “missing drugs” and that she was asked to take a blood test “to determine if she had any” drugs “in her system. “.
Peterson then allegedly said she had tested positive for opiates.
Peterson also alleged that she was taking prescription opiates before her hospital employment, but that she was out of the 20 pills she was given to recover “well” before the tests in November.
When asked where she got the opiates she tested positive for, Peterson then allegedly admitted to taking “certain” prescription drugs in the hospital, “but not the 1,200 pills reported.”
She continued to state that she would take one or two pills “here and there”, once or twice a week for a few weeks, and also claimed that she “would consume the drugs and not give them to anyone. “
Peterson could not provide an estimate of the number of pills she thought she took in total, but reportedly said she was taking “between six and eight pills per day.”
County 10 contacted SageWest, who provided the following comment:
“SageWest Health Care is committed to providing high quality care and service to our patients. We take any allegation relating to an employee very seriously and cooperate fully with investigating authorities. Due to confidentiality, we cannot provide information relating to this situation or any matter relating to employees. Thank you for your understanding.”
Peterson’s arraignment date has been set for November 9.
The maximum penalty for a felony of possession of hydrocodone is seven years in prison and a $ 15,000 fine.
The maximum penalty for a felony of possession of oxycodone is seven years imprisonment and a fine of $ 15,000.
The maximum penalty for a felony charge of possession of hydrocodone is 12 months imprisonment and a fine of $ 1,000.
The maximum penalty for a theft offense is six months imprisonment and a $ 750 fine.
County 10 will provide more updates on the case as it evolves, which can be found here.