A former registered nurse at the Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas pleaded not guilty to four counts related to stealing narcotics and diluting patients' narcotics during his arraignment in federal court on Friday.

Ryan Joseph Harris entered his plea before U.S. Magistrate Michael Shickich in Casper, according to court records.

Shickich set his trial before U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson in Cheyenne on Dec. 4.

Harris remains free on an unsecured bond of $10,000.

A grand jury indicted him Sept. 19 on the alleged crimes from Sept. 1, 2016, to June 2:

  • Tampering with a consumer product -- 58 vials of hydromorphone (Dilaudid) by removing some or all of the drug and replacing it with saline solution.
  • Tampering with a consumer project -- one container of meperidine (Demerol) by removing some or all of the drug and replacing it with saline solution.
  • Acquiring a Schedule II controlled substance -- hydromorphone -- by removing it from its container and replacing it with saline solution.
  • Acquiring a Schedule II controlled substance -- meperidine -- and replacing it with saline solution.

The first two counts of tampering with a consumer product stated that Harris allegedly committed the crimes "with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of bodily injury, and under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to such risk...."

If convicted, each of the tampering with a consumer product carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years of imprisonment. Each of the two counts of obtaining controlled substances by deceit or subterfuge carries a potential sentence of up to four years of imprisonment.

The case came to light in June when when the hospital's pharmacy staff discovered irregularities in the access of hydromorphone/Dilaudid during a routine review of the hospital's automated medication dispensing system, the hospital's Chief Executive Officer Ryan Smith said during a news conference.

The pharmacy staff found more than 400 patients who were given Dilaudid may not have received the medication as prescribed, Smith said.

Harris was placed on administrative leave from the Memorial Hospital of Converse County in June and had his license suspended by the Wyoming State Board of Nursing

Hospital spokesman Karl Hertz told K2 Radio that Harris was personally using the drug. Harris reportedly received hydromorphone while he was a patient at the hospital, which led to what hospital officials said became an addiction.

Harris admitted to stealing the hydromorphone and has been cooperative, Hertz said.

Any patients who received Dilaudid during that period can call 307-358-7345 to reach a dedicated phone line where hospital staff will answer any questions.