Former nurse gets 18 months in prison for stealing opioid prescriptions from elderly patient

After a guilty plea, a judge has sentenced a former Minnesota nurse to 18 months behind bars for stealing painkiller medications from an elderly patient in 2018.

La Vang was arrested in August of 2018 following a traffic stop in Columbia Heights where police said empty prescription bottles belonging to the victim were found in his car.

Prosecutors say Vang worked as a registered nurse for Lifesprk Home Care and made direct visits to the victim's home. Between April and August of 2018, investigators said Vang stole took oxycodone and hydrocodone belonging to a patient in her 80s and swapped them for similar-looking over-the-counter loratadine and acetaminophen tablets.

During this period of time, prosecutors say the patient's health declined rapidly. When the victim's husband contacted Lifesprk in July 2018 to raise concerns, prosecutors say he learned that Vang had left the company in May. But, despite no longer being an employee for Lifesprk, he had continued to visit the victim's home as a nurse.

After a visit on August 2, 2018, police performed a traffic stop and found the empty pill bottles belonging to the victim as well as empty bottles of loratadine and acetaminophen tablets.

In May of 2019, Vang pleaded guilty to a federal charge of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. Along with the year and half behind bars, he will also serve one year of supervised release.

“As a registered nurse, Mr. Vang abused his position of trust and caused harm to a vulnerable victim only to feed his own addiction," wrote MacDonald. "This sentence, which is an upward departure from the sentencing guideline range, is appropriate for this defendant’s conduct."