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COLUMBIA HEIGHTS, Minn. — A registered nurse was sentenced to a year and a half in prison for stealing painkillers from an elderly woman he was providing home health care to in Columbia Heights, causing the woman’s health to decline, authorities say.

La Vang, 27, of Newport, received the sentence Wednesday, Nov. 27, in U.S District Court in St. Paul after pleading guilty last spring to one count of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance, according to court documents.

As an employee of Lifesprk Home Care at the time, Vang was assigned to care for a woman in her 80s who was recovering from multiple surgeries and prescribed controlled painkillers to manage her pain.

Between April and August of 2018, Vang swapped out her oxycodone and hydrocodone and replaced them with “similar looking loratadine and acetaminophen tables,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

During that time, the woman’s health started declining, leading her husband to reach out to Lifesprk to raise concerns. That’s when he found out that the company stopped providing care for his wife in May 2018 and that Vang was no longer even employed there, authorities say.

Even so, he continued to show up at the couple’s house under the guise he continued to work for Lifesprk.

After alerting police, officers pulled Vang over as he was leaving the couple’s home in early August and discovered “several” empty prescription bottles under the woman’s name dated between April and June of 2018 along with empty bottles of acetaminophen and the Walgreens-brand allergy medication for loratadine.

“Temptation and addiction plague all professions,” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official William Stockmann said of the case, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. “A nurse taking advantage of those in need of home health care and medication is unbecoming and does significant harm to our communities. DEA continues to work with partners to identify individuals diverting medication and will prosecute them to the full extent of the law.”