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Nurse supervisor gets home detention for illegal drug distribution

One of Catherine Vitello’s jobs as nursing supervisor was to destroy unused prescription drugs, prosecutors say.

She chose instead to hand some of them out.

Vitello, 41, of Elma, was sentenced Friday to a year of home detention and three years probation for handing out hydrocodone pills and fentanyl patches to an undercover informant last year. At the time, she was director of nursing at St. Catherine Labouré Health Center in Buffalo, a long-term care facility associated with neighboring Sisters Hospital.

“She’s a smart, educated person, and she screwed up," said defense attorney John J. Molloy.

Molloy and Vitello argued that she and her family have suffered enough and they pointed to the loss of her career, the damage to her family’s reputation and the humiliation of being arrested.

“I was frisked and questioned by someone I went to high school with,” Vitello told U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

The prosecution asked for a prison sentence and noted that it was a breach of trust that allowed Vitello to illegally distribute drugs from inside her nursing office.

Prosecutors say it was Vitello’s job to destroy the facility’s unused drugs – they were stored in her office safe – but she instead sold many of them. Molloy says she never made money off the drugs she gave away.

“She had the key to the drug cabinet," said Assistant U.S. Attorney John M. Alsup. “She had the key to prevent those drugs from going anywhere else.”

In the end, Arcara gave Vitello a non-jail sentence that will allow her to stay with her husband and children.

“Jail would serve no purpose here,” Arcara said.

Vitello will wear an electronic ankle bracelet while confined to her home.

email: pfairbanks@buffnews.com