Registered nurse pleads guilty to obtaining a controlled substance by fraud

November 6, 2021
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By Linda Cicoira

A local registered nurse, with convictions and violations for illegally obtaining pain medicines that were supposed to be given to her patients over decades, pleaded guilty Thursday in Accomack Circuit Court to obtaining a controlled substance by fraud on April 23, 2020, at Shore Health and Rehab Center, in Parksley.

Fifty-nine-year-old Barbara Annette Powell, also known as Barbara Annette Powell Velvin, of Accomac, was allowed to remain free on bond until she is sentenced, on Jan. 13. A plea agreement called for her to be sentenced within guidelines that will be based on the offense and prior convictions. Judge W. Revell Lewis III ordered a short-form pre-sentence report.

After court Thursday, Commonwealth’s Attorney Spencer Morgan said, “The agreement was to ensure the conviction of the defendant allowing the licensing board to take action against her professional license. We believe we’re doing the best thing possible to ensure that she can’t practice as a nurse … We did everything in our power.” He expected drug abuse treatment to be recommended as well.

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According to a summary of evidence, the amount of morphine recorded was low on a chart at the Parksley center. Powell and another worker were screened. Powell was found to have three drugs in her system, including the addictive pain reliever, Oxycodone. She admitted she had a “a moment of weakness” after hearing devastating news. An assistant prosecutor said, “No damage was caused to her patients.” The drugs found in her system did not include morphine and she denied taking that drug.

Defense lawyer Tucker Watson said Powell works at Heritage Hall, (now called The Citadel). “They are extremely short staffed right now and are aware of the charge,” he said.

According to records posted on the state’s website, Powell’s license was suspended in November 1991 because of her “diversion of certain Schedule II and VI controlled substances, alteration of prescriptions, impairment while on duty, and a felony conviction of five counts of obtaining prescription drugs by forgery or alteration of a prescription.” The drugs included Valium, Butalbital, and Demerol.

She eventually received treatment. In 1992, she was released by the Mecklenburg County Circuit Court “from further supervised probation of random drug testing. In 1993, she was an outpatient in a substance abuse program and was successfully discharged with the recommendation for participation in Alanon meetings.” According to the record, Powell said, “she has not used any controlled substances since November 1990 and stopped using alcohol in June 1993. She was found competent to return to nursing and her license was reinstated in 1994.

Her license was again suspended in 2002. She was convicted on more fraud charges in 2003, also in Mecklenburg  and reinstated later in the year. In 2008, she diverted Dilaudid, Morphine and Xanax.

The record stated, “Ms. Powell is unable to safely practice as a professional nurse due to alcohol and/or substance abuse and/or physical illness and/or mental illness, as she acknowledged in signing a Recovery Monitoring Contract with the Virginia Health Practitioner’ Intervention Program, dated Feb. 9, 2009.” At that time, her license was “indefinitely suspended.”

She again got her license back and in 2017 was back to diverting Dilaudid and Morphine while assigned to work at Bon Secours Memorial regional Medical Center, in Mechanicsville, according to the board records.

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