BUFFALO, N.Y. — Catherine Vitello, 40, was released from federal custody following her initial appearance in Federal Court Friday, scheduled to return next week on charges of possession with intent to distribute and distribution of hydrocodone, fentanyl and alprazolam.
Law enforcement officials said as the director of nursing for St. Catherine Laboure Health Care Center on the Sisters Hospital campus, Vitello was selling prescription pills that were unused and unneeded by patients.
"Nurse Vitello stands now accused of not being a healer, but instead, being a drug dealer," said William Hochul, U.S. Attorney.
"Knowing that these chemicals, or these prescription drugs would be for illegal sale on the streets, without any concern whatsoever for public health," said Michelle Spahn, DEA resident agent-in-charge.
Spahn said the investigation began early this month with a tip, and since then, a civilian working with law enforcement made two undercover purchases from Vitello.
"Including, purchasing, on one occasion, over 140 hydrocodone pills and on another occasion, fentanyl patches right from nurse Vitello's office. These purchases were made in exchange for approximately $800," said Hochul.
Following her arrest Friday morning at her Elma home, Vitello's office was searched by law enforcement.
Spahn said, "Right now, prescription drugs on the street are very valuable. The profit margin for these type of drugs are astronomical, this is why it's such a hot topic and it's becoming an epidemic."
"We simply won't tolerate someone hiding behind their white coat or title when tracking down those responsible for selling narcotics," said Hochul.
Spahn said Vitello was responsible for destruction of the painkillers, so they're working with the hospital to see if that policy needs to be changed.
The Catholic Health system released a statement saying Vitello's been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
The court entered a not guilty plea on her behalf Friday, and she's due back on Wednesday.