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A former Billings Clinic nurse is expected to plead guilty next week in federal court to stealing fentanyl intended for patients and replacing it with saline.

Donald Friedlich Mills III was indicted on two counts related to the theft in U.S. District Court in Billings last year. Mills is charged with tampering with consumer products and acquiring fentanyl by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery and deception.

There is no plea agreement in the case.

Mills was fired from the hospital in March 2017 after a colleague discovered irregularities with the automated secure cabinet in which the hospital stores controlled substances.

When Mills was interviewed by a hospital administrator, court documents state, he had a syringe of fentanyl on him and tested positive for the drug. In an interview with investigators from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration later in the month, Mills allegedly said he began using the drug in February 2017 to deal with neck pain and anxiety.

Fentanyl is an opioid used in a sedative mixture prescribed to patients before they undergo a catheter insertion procedure, according to the hospital.

Of 22 packages of the drug suspected to have been tampered with, the DEA drug lab found that 15 had no fentanyl remaining inside them, court documents state.

The Montana Board of Nursing revoked Mills' license last June.

Mills is scheduled to plead guilty to the charges on May 17 before Magistrate Judge Timothy Cavan.

Tampering is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. The drug charge is punishable by up to four years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

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