Rochelle Ellison and Nadia Gibson stole sedatives intended for patients at a Brunswick nursing home who were entrusted to their care, conspiring instead to sell the drugs on the streets for profit.
But an investigation by Brunswick police, the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency interrupted their scheme, which originated as early as December 2019 and continued into early 2020, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Georgia.
Ellison, 48, of Townsend pled guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Brunswick to conspiracy to possess and distribute alprazolam, said Barry L. Paschal, spokesperson for the acting Southern Dstrict U.S. Attorney David H. Estes.
Gibson, 38, of Jacksonville, Fla., pled guilty to the same charges last month, Paschall said.
Both were sentenced to probation.
The original federal indictment accused the two also of stealing and selling the narcotic painkillers hydrocodone, Lorcet hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Hydromorphone and the sedative Lorazepam, Paschal said. These counts were dismissed as part of their plea deals, Paschal said.
Ellison worked in guest services and Gibson was a licensed practical nurse at the Senior Care Center, 2611 Wildwood Drive on Southeast Georgia Health System medical campus in Brunswick, said Brunswick Police Sgt. Mike Davis.
The two women began stealing drugs from the facility’s medical supplies office and selling them on the outside for profit, investigators said.
Officials at the Senior Care Center detected missing drugs during an internal audit and contacted Brunswick police in January 2020, said Davis, supervisor of the department’s Drug Enforcement Unit.
Brunswick police then contacted the county sheriff’s office deputy assigned to the DEA diversion unit, which investigates prescription drug trafficking, Davis said. The investigation proceeded from there, he said.
“I’m glad we stopped people who are stealing prescription pills from a senior health care facility, where they’re needed, and putting them on the streets, where they are most definitely not needed,” Davis said. “I mean, it’s terrible that they were taking pills from people who needed them and selling them to people who didn’t need them.”
Indictments were handed down on the two women last May.
Federal authorities indicated that others may have been involved in the plot. However, “no other defendants are charged in this case,” Paschal said Thursday.
Alprazolam is generic for Xanax, which is used primarily to treat anxiety and panic attacks. Its primary ingredient is benzodiazepine.
“All too often, the source of illegally sold drugs in the community – including dangerously addictive opioids – starts with pilferage of medicine supplies at healthcare facilities,” Acting U.S. Attorney Estes said in a statement Thursday.
“We applaud the work of our law enforcement partners in tracking down and interrupting the sources of illegal drug supplies, no matter where they’re found.”