In each case, the nurses will face potential sanctions that could include the loss of their nursing licenses through the Ohio Board of Nursing. They also were interviewed by the state nursing board during the investigation, Fornshell said.
More than 290,000 nurses are licensed in Ohio.
Last year, the board investigated 7,317 complaints regarding criminal activity, substance use abuse, theft of drugs, substandard practice, patient abuse and neglect, and other violations of law or administrative rules, according to the board’s 2018 annual report.
“Prescription drug abuse was targeted through collaboration with law enforcement, other state boards and agencies,” according to the annual report.
Leonhardt, Martin and Vazquez are accused of taking patients’ painkillers and using themselves, according to Fornshell.
In Leonhardt’s case, “investigators believe she was using and selling,” Fornshell said.
Although charged with fourth-degree felonies, none of them was in jail this week, and Fornshell said they were unlikely to go to prison.
Instead, Fornshell said nurses in such cases typically wind up in drug treatment programs, facing the potential end to their careers.
Leonhardt, Martin and Vazquez are scheduled for arraignment Dec. 7 in Warren County Common Pleas Court.
None had retained lawyers, according to court records. They could not be reached for comment.
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The cases were all presented to the a Warren County grand jury with evidence gathered by Susan Lloyd, a detective with the Warren County Drug Task Force assigned from the county sheriff’s office and who specializes in “pharmaceutical diversion” cases.
None of the three charged was still working at the health care facilities where they were employed at the time of the alleged thefts, according to the prosecutor.
Fornshell said Martin’s status was unknown. Vazquez resigned after being contacted about the missing drugs, while Leonhardt is alleged to have left work with records pertaining to her case.
“She left and she never came back,” Fornshell said.
Martin, while working as a nurse at the Cedarview Nursing Home in Lebanon, is accused of theft of hydrocodone on Aug. 23.
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“She was literally pocketing them,” Fornshell alleged.
Three counts of illegal processing of drug documents allege she falsely reported administering the drugs.
“The patients didn’t get their medications,” the prosecutor said.
Video and questions about the documentation are to be used as evidence in the case.
Also in August, Vazquez is alleged to have stolen Hydrocodone, Methadone and Oxycodone and falsified records while working as a nurse at the Carlisle Health Manor in Carlisle.
“She was doing it on a daily basis,” Fornshell said.
Vazquez faces 11 counts each of theft of drugs and illegal processing of drug documents. The charges involve eight victims, but the investigation involved “a few dozen” patients and a longer time period, according to the prosecutor.
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Vazquez allegedly documented “future applications,” then took the drugs, Fornshell said.
Leonhardt was working at Hillspring health care facility in Springboro when she was allegedly spotted in September on video, taking packs of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, according to Lloyd’s investigation.
To cover up the thefts, Leonhardt is alleged to have taken the records of two patients.
“Defendants end up in treatment,” Fornshell said. “It certainly effects their ability to serve in their chosen occupation.”