MISSOULA — On Tuesday, a Butte woman admitted she diverted drugs while working as a nurse at a Butte hospital, according to U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson.
Nichole Lynn Zinda, 37, pleaded guilty to unlawfully obtaining a controlled substance as charged in an indictment. Zinda faces a maximum of four years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto presided. Sentencing was set for Aug. 24 before U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen. The court will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Zinda was released pending further proceedings.
The government alleged in court documents that a hospital in Butte notified the Drug Enforcement Administration that Zinda, a registered nurse working on the post-operation floor, was discovered diverting hydromorphone cartridges in September 2020. The hospital reviewed Zinda’s records, which showed an abnormally high number of transactions by Zinda regarding oxycodone and hydromorphone as compared to other nurses working on the same floor. Zinda was pretending to “waste” or dispose of the hydromorphone or was giving it to patients but then canceling the orders in the system. Zinda was placed on administrative leave on Oct. 2, 2020, after providing a urine analysis and was terminated four days later after the test was positive for hydromorphone as well as oxycodone/oxymorphone. Zinda told investigators that she took hydromorphone from the hospital to prevent her from getting sick when she didn’t have any pills. When she diverted the drugs, she would store them in her pocket.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the DEA, Montana Division of Criminal Investigation and St. James Hospital.