A Northfield man who has worked at area hospitals as a certified nurse anesthetist for 14 years has been charged with coming in on his days off to steal narcotics from Northfield Hospital.
Craig Robert Hall, 50, is charged in Dakota County District Court with felony drug theft, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. The charge has a mandatory minimum penalty of a $6,000 fine.
Northfield police were called to Northfield Hospital on Aug. 30 when hospital administrators reported concerns that an employee was stealing medications, according to the criminal complaint.
A hospital employee told police that internal perpetual inventory procedures had shown that narcotics were missing, and an investigation was launched.
That investigation involved closely monitoring each anesthesiologist’s medication box and installing video cameras in the anesthesiologist room. Employees determined that Hall had been stealing medications, according to the complaint.
When an electrician installed the video surveillance system, he found packaging for a half-case of Fentanyl, a powerful medication used to treat pain in cancer patients, hidden in the ceiling tiles, the complaint says.
On Aug. 23, Hall returned his medication box to the hospital pharmacy short 12 milliliters of Versed, a narcotic given to patients before anesthesia, according to the complaint.
Surveillance video from the anesthesiologist room shot on Aug. 26 showed Hall, who was not scheduled to work, entering the room, opening his locked medication box and taking something from the bottom, the complaint charges. Hall then took a syringe and left the room.
Video from Aug. 27 showed Hall in the anesthesiologist room shooting something up his nose with a syringe. Both Fentanyl and Versed can be ingested through the nose, according to the complaint.
Surveillance video in the anesthesiologist room showed Hall entering the room on his days off, wearing civilian clothing. The employee who reported the crime told police that Hall suffers back pain and chronic knee pain.
On Aug. 31, police met with Hall, who admitted stealing one or two vials of narcotic medications daily, according to the complaint. He said he had worked at the hospital for 14 years and had been taking medication “on and off” for about two and a half years.
Hall said he underwent knee surgery several years ago, began taking pain medications and became addicted to them, according to the complaint. He said he began stealing leftover amounts after patients were given their prescribed dosages and eventually worked up to stealing full bottles from his medication box or other nurse anesthetists’ boxes, the complaint says.
Hall told police that he never stole medications meant for patients, and said his patients always got their prescribed dosages.
He said he also stole narcotics from hospitals in Owatonna and Faribault, but that it was harder to accomplish at those hospitals, according to the complaint.
Hall also said he was glad to have been caught because he knew he couldn’t “go on this way.” He said he had tried to stop taking the medications on his own, but had been unsuccessful.
Hall is scheduled to make a first appearance on the charge Dec. 3 in Dakota County District Court in Hastings.