Lee Memorial nurse charged with stealing drugs

Posted at 10:16 PM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 11:25:25-05

FORT MYERS, Fla.- A Lee Memorial Health System nurse is charged with stealing narcotics from a hospital.

Lee County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested 40-year-old Gladys Armendariz after an investigation revealed she took several injectable medications and pills.

The Sheriff's Office report said detectives showed up at Gulf Coast Hospital and asked Armendariz if she had anything in her pockets.

She responded, "yes," and handed over several vials of hydromorphone and Xanax, and deputies found more drugs in her locker.

Four in Your Corner's Lisa Greenberg stopped by Armendariz's home to see if she was home.

Somone was clearly inside, but there was no answer.

Her calls to Armendariz were not returned.

Deputies said Armendariz worked for Lee Memorial for 17 years.

She was arrested while on duty at Gulf Coast Hospital.

Armendariz turned over three different drugs, including four vials hydromorphone, a highly addictive pain killer.

"It's a significant amount, especially for personal use," Brandon Short of White Sands Drug Treatment Center said. "It does enhance your feelings. It causes Euphoria. It can cause extreme happiness, a very mellow mood," he said.

Armendariz also handed over three alprazolam pills, commonly known as Xanax.

"People do tend to abuse it and it is a scheduled narcotic. It's highly addictive and very dangerous medication when it's not handled appropriately," Short said.

Deputies also found two vials of lorazepam in Armendariz's locker, which Short said is used for stress, anxiety, and seizures.

Lee Memorial Health System released a statement regarding Armendariz's arrest:

"Lee Memorial Health System expects the best behavior from our employees. We maintain strict policies and procedures for the handling of pharmaceuticals, to ensure patient safety. Noncompliance of procedures are not tolerated. The individual in this case has been arrested and we are cooperating fully with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation. – Mary Briggs, Lee Memorial Spokesperson

Short said it's not uncommon for medical professionals to steal medication.

"Whether the person is selling them, using them for personal use, or sometimes in the cases we've heard, they're giving it to a family member who can't afford health insurance," Short said.

Armendariz is charged with grand theft of a controlled substance, and she's scheduled to appear in court on March 7th.