CEDAR RAPIDS | A North Iowa occupational therapist has been charged in federal court for stealing prescription drugs and violating patient confidentiality laws after she allegedly went through coworkers' purses and showed up at patients' homes, looking for drugs, documents said.
Samantha Jo Rogers, 32, Mason City, was charged in federal court on three counts:
• Obtaining and attempting to obtain a controlled substance by fraud, deception and subterfuge.
• Criminal HIPAA violations.
• Aiding and abetting.
The incidents occurred between October 2017 and May 2018 in Cerro Gordo County.
Charges were filed Oct. 12 by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General Special Agent Teresa Dailey. The Mason City Police Department, Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, Worth County Sheriff’s Department and the Clear Lake Police Department assisted in the investigation.
Rogers appeared in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids Oct. 18. She was released on her own recognizance following the hearing. No future court date has been set.
The criminal complaint lists Rogers as a registered nurse and occupational therapist with the Iowa Department of Public Health.
The 15-page court document details a pattern of behavior involving pain medication with several employers.
Rogers began working as an occupational therapist for Orthopedic & Neurological Rehabilitation, Inc. at the IOOF Home and Community Therapy Center on Feb. 28, 2015.
On Jan. 24, 2017, IOOF’s Regional Director of Operations Jennifer Groen was contacted by an IOOF administrator who reported that a restorative aide in the Therapy Department had noticed prescription pills missing from her purse on several occasions.
The aide, who relayed her concerns about Rogers to administrators, began counting her pills and identifying who was working in the department when the pills would go missing.
The administrator watched surveillance video, which showed Rogers going into the aide’s office and going through her purse.
Rogers was told about the video on Jan. 26, and she admitted to Groen that she took the pills. She was fired the next day.
Mercy Medical Center--North Iowa
On Oct. 7, 2013, Mercy Medical Center--North Iowa hired Rogers for its Acute Rehab/Skilled Nursing Unit.
A nursing aide reported she was missing five pain pills from her purse in the Skilled Nursing Unit break room on May 15, 2017. Rogers was working with a patient that day in the room next to the break room.
Connie Morrison, a HR employee, interviewed Rogers and she became “visibly upset.”
“Morrison had been told that weeks earlier Rogers was fired from IOOF for missing pain medication,” court documents said. “Two staff members shared with Morrison that Rogers has asked them for pain medication several months earlier.”
Morrison found another nursing aide reported she was missing pain medication after her shift on March 7, 2017.
She left Mercy July 31, 2018.
Northern Iowa Therapy
Rogers was hired by Northern Iowa Therapy, the contracted home health therapy provider for the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health, on Sept. 7, 2017.
On Dec. 18, 2017, Mason City Police Capt. Mike McKelvey contacted Northern Iowa Therapy manager Tina Steere. He told the manager that the department was investigating a few incidents in Mason City and Ventura.
In the incidents, McKelvey said a woman who claimed to be with Public Health was going to the homes of patients recovering from recent surgeries and picking up unused medications.
The descriptions provided of the woman said she appeared to have knowledge about health care and some sort of medical background, Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health Family Community Health Service Manager Valerie Conklin told Steere.
Steere looked to see if Rogers had used her work-issued laptop to access medical records for those involved.
Four specific patients were mentioned in court documents.
The first three incidents followed a pattern. They would receive therapy from Northern Iowa Therapy, Rogers would access their medical records and then a woman would go to their homes. None of the patients were Rogers’ patients.
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A man who had previously received physical therapy from Northern Iowa Therapy was recovering from heart surgery in the fall of 2017.
On Dec. 8, 2017, his wife called Cerro Gordo County Public Health and told Conklin that a woman had visited their home, claiming she was with a new Public Health program to check out home medical equipment.
The woman requested to go into the bathroom to check out equipment, court documents said. The man's wife did not trust the woman, but let her go into the bathroom while supervised. Court documents said the wife didn't think any medication was taken.
“The visitor also offered to give (man’s initials) wife a massage,” court documents said.
Rogers’ job with Northern Iowa Therapy does not have anything to do with medications or massage, court documents said.
Records show that Rogers accessed the man’s medical records on Nov. 15 and Nov. 19 in 2017.
On Dec. 4, 2017, a patient called the Clear Lake Police Department and told an officer that a woman entered her home through the back door around lunchtime that day.
The woman told the the patient that she was with a “public nurse-type agency and wanted to look for out-of-date-drugs.”
The patient had a prescription for oxycodone but did not fill it because it makes her ill, the criminal complaint said. The patient later told Conklin the woman said she was there to review her medications.
“(Woman’s initials) argued with the female visitor and told her that she takes care of her own medications,” court documents said. “The female proceeded to start going through (woman’s initials) organizer tote and (woman’s initials) yelled at her and told her to get out of her things and get out.”
Records show Rogers accessed the woman’s medical records on nine days from Nov. 11 to Dec. 1.
In October 2017, a woman arrived at a patient’s home three to four weeks after she was discharged from home health.
“The female visitor told (women’s initials) that she would help her dispose of unused medications so (women’s initials) gave her unused Percocet,” court documents said.
Rogers accessed her medical records on Oct. 23 ad Oct. 25.
On Feb. 14, 2018, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department responded to a possible burglary at a patient's residence in Forest City. The only thing reported missing was a bottle of hydrocodone.
After the break-in, the patient installed surveillance cameras and a security system in the house.
On March 7, the patient’s granddaughter was notified that the security system was tripped.
The camera captured a woman with brown hair and a headband entering the house while no one was home and opening cabinets.
On May 19, the patient’s wife called the sheriff’s department, saying she believed the woman came back and they captured the license plate on video.
The license plate was a black Ford Edge registered to Rogers.
According to Mercy’s medical access logs, Rogers viewed the patient’s medical records on Feb. 13, April 29 and May 12.
Two search warrants were filed against Rogers in Hancock County District Court in July. The court sealed the warrants, meaning no information about what police were seeking or found is publicly available.
Franklin County burglary charges
Rogers also faces charges in Franklin County District Court for felony third-degree burglary on July 18.
At about 9:35 a.m. July 1, a relative was checking a home on Spring Creek Lane in Hampton and found a 2016 Ford F-150 pickup in the driveway.
The relative entered the home and heard the front door close, charging documents said. Rogers allegedly knocked on the door and spoke with the relative face-to-face.
“Further investigation found Samantha Jo Rogers claiming to be a home health care provider was the suspect that entered the residence,” court documents said. “Further investigation found $20 missing from a wallet and pry marks on the door jamb and door.”
A jury trial is set for Nov. 8 in Franklin County District Court.