Woman avoids jail time for morphine theft

A former employee at a Fruita animal clinic who stole medication will avoid jail time under a plea agreement.

Under terms of the agreement, a charge of animal cruelty against Nicole Maves, 28, was dropped. She also faced allegations that she diluted medication that was later given to animals during medical procedures.

Maves on Friday received a deferred judgment after pleading guilty to unlawful possession of morphine and felony theft of between $1,000 and $20,000.

The sentence handed down by District Judge Thomas Deister means Maves’ convictions will be wiped clean if she stays out of trouble over the next 42 months.

Deister also sentenced Maves to 60 hours of public service and fined her $3,388.

The Mesa County District Attorney’s Office dismissed remaining charges, including felony cruelty to animals, under the terms of the plea agreement.

Maves, formerly a noncertified vet tech, was arrested by Fruita police in May after her boss at Desert Springs Vet Clinic, 922 Frontage Road, reported allegations that Maves had stolen medication from the clinic.

Police found seals broken on several boxes of morphine and noted needle puncture marks on the rubber coverings of at least two bottles of the drug, an arrest affidavit said.

Maves on several occasions had been found by colleagues “unresponsive and unconscious”  on the job, the affidavit said.

A former roommate described watching Maves inject herself with morphine and later replacing the fluids with saline solution.

A co-worker told police the clinic had seen complications during surgical procedures around the time of the thefts.

“Numerous” dogs had to be sedated with gas, a riskier alternative, because staff believed medications had been watered down and “none of the dogs would go to sleep,” the affidavit said.

In court Friday, Maves rejected police suggestions that she caused suffering to animals.


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