Public Safety

Former Cedar Rapids nurse accused of stealing fentanyl from surgery center

Indictment states she used syringe to withdraw opioid from vials, then refilled them with another substance

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the outpatient surgery center as a Unity-Point—St. Luke’s facility. The center was not identified in the indictment. (Updated 11:30 a.m., Dec. 3, 2020)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A former Cedar Rapids nurse pleaded not guilty Wednesday in federal court to stealing fentanyl from the clinic where she worked and then covering up her theft by refilling the vials with another substance.

Sabrina Thalblum, 52, of Cedar Rapids, was indicted in U.S. District Court on one count each of tampering and attempting to tamper with a consumer product — vials of fentanyl — and acquiring and attempting to acquire a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, deception and subterfuge.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Roberts released Thalblum without bond pending trial set for Feb. 1.

Thalblum worked at a “outpatient surgery center” in Cedar Rapids from October 2017 to August 2019, according to the indictment. She was issued a nursing license by the Iowa Board of Nursing in 2013.

The indictment states Thalblum gained access to fentanyl at the surgery center from August 2018 through August 2019. She is accused of diverting the fentanyl for her own use. To cover up her theft, she obtained fine-gauge needles for a syringe to “carefully” puncture the vials of fentanyl and withdraw what she wanted of the opioid that is similar to morphine, the indictment states.

Thalblum refilled the vials with another clear substance to make them appear full, according to the indictment. She also reglued the caps on the vials, so they would appear new and unopened, and the labels remained on the vials.

A statement of charges and settlement agreement filed in June with the Iowa Board of Nursing shows Thalblum admitted to tampering and diverting fentanyl from the surgery center and also admitted to having a substance abuse problem.

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Her license, at that time, was indefinitely suspended until Aug. 24. She would be placed on probation for a year and have to show sobriety for 12 months. There were numerous other requirements during her probation period, according to the document.

The indictment shows that if Thalblum is convicted, she must forfeit her nursing license and any property or proceeds she received as a result of the theft if she sold the drugs.

If convicted, she faces up to 10 years on the tampering charge and four years on the other charge.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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