DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A woman who was to have been the subject of a documentary about her success as a nurse was sentenced Monday in Piscataquis County Superior Court for stealing $8,465 worth of drugs from her employer, Mayo Regional Hospital, from 2008 to 2009.
Paula A. Thorne, 44, of Exeter, who pleaded guilty in November to Class C theft, was sentenced by Justice William Anderson to two years in prison, with all but 45 days suspended, and was placed on probation for two years. She also was ordered to pay restitution of $8,465 to compensate for the prescription drugs she took while employed as a registered nurse at the Dover-Foxcroft hospital.
Piscataquis County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said Thorne perpetrated a “massive drug theft” from Mayo. He had sought to recover the $14,012 that the hospital expended investigating the missing drugs, but Anderson chose to exclude those in his sentence. He noted it was highly unlikely that Thorne could pay that fee since she is unemployed, her nursing license has been revoked, and she lost her house to foreclosure.
A full-scale audit was launched when the hospital’s pharmacy director discovered he was ordering a greater quantity of certain drugs than usual. He suspected that the drugs were being diverted. The investigation showed that Thorne was taking the drugs, among them hydromorphone, a narcotic, but was not administering them to patients during her shift, Almy said in November. ‘’They were not getting what they were supposed to get,’’ he said Monday of the patients.
Thorne’s attorney, Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor, said Monday that she had never failed to give her patients their drugs, but she took liberties with excess drugs. He said there was no evidence his client sold the drugs to others.
Almy said it was really hard for him to understand how Thorne could have consumed all of those drugs by herself.
Silverstein also disputed Almy’s assertion that a large quantity of drugs that had been stolen from the hospital was found during the execution of a search warrant at Thorne’s house. He said there were no drugs at her house, but he admitted police found packaging containers consistent with what the hospital used.
Silverstein said Thorne, who has no prior criminal history, had suffered a shoulder injury five years ago and been given pain medicine at the Penobscot Native American health center. After that she developed a dependence on those medicines, he said. Silverstein said Thorne recognized that she had a problem and had already sought help for her addiction before the theft was uncovered.
As part of Thorne’s probation, Almy had recommended she not be employed in the medical field. Silverstein, however, said that Thorne has been working toward her certification as a phlebotomist and that such a prohibition would keep her from a job in that field. He said her nursing license has been revoked but noted that licenses can be reinstated. He asked that she be allowed to work in the medical field if licensed or as an instructor, but that she not work in a place where she has access to medicines.
Anderson said he would let the state’s licensing board make that decision.