Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Jacksonville, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Katherine Jee Rankin (30, Jacksonville Beach) today pleaded guilty to tampering with a consumer product, specifically injectable hydromorphone. Rankin faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not been set.
According to the plea agreement, Rankin was a registered nurse and employed by a surgical center in Jacksonville. On October 13, 2022, after discovering that Rankin had forged an anesthesia record, a supervisor confronted Rankin and told her that she was being fired. After being terminated, but while still in the building, Rankin was seen by another employee, and captured on a surveillance camera, removing some vials from a controlled substances cabinet. While still at the surgical center, Rankin had a discussion with three other employees telling them that she had an addiction and that she had been taking drugs from the facility. She also said that the center’s drug count was going to be off. Rankin eventually turned over four vials of injectable hydromorphone, stating that the vials did not contain hydromorphone, but saline. Rankin explained that she had removed the hydromorphone, replaced it with saline, glued the caps back on, and then put vials back in the inventory so that surgical center’s drug count would be correct. Laboratory testing later showed that all four vials contained evidence of physical tampering (caps being removed and glued back on) and chemical tampering (each vial contained very diluted amounts of hydromorphone).
A review of patient records showed numerous instances in which 200 ml of hydromorphone was documented as being administered to patients when that amount would have been unusual – 100 ml being more typical. On those occasions, the entries appeared to have been altered with a “2” being written over the “1.” There were also multiple records of hydromorphone supposedly being administered post-operatively (which also would be unusual), indicating that these records were falsified or altered to cover for Rankin’s diversion of drugs for personal use.
As a trained and educated healthcare professional, Rankin knew that tampering with medication and falsifying records placed patients in danger of bodily injury and potentially death.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – Office of Criminal Investigations and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office – Pharmaceutical Diversion and Designer Drug Unit attached to the North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael J. Coolican.
USAO - Florida, Middle