PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla.- A health care worker at the Courtyard Retirement Center in Port Charlotte is accused of stealing pain medications from patients.
Hilary Constant, 28, cared for elderly and disabled adults at the assisted living facility located on Rampart Boulevard. Now she faces 21 criminal charges, including neglect of elderly or disabled adults and grand theft.
Deputies say she took patients’ narcotic medications and replaced them with other medications of similar appearance, leaving patients in pain.
“These medications were removed and replaced with other medications such as muscle relaxers, nausea medications, and things of that nature,” said Thomas Conroy with the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.
Constant targeted seven patients, taking their hydrocodone and oxycodone. A patient at the center first reported something was off back in November when she noticed her pain medication did not look the same.
Mixing medications can be detrimental, or even deadly, and investigators say in this case patients dealt with increased pain.
“They didn’t receive their proper medications, they suffered some pain. Their pain management was not controlled,” Conroy said.
Constant had unsupervised access to the medications on her overnight shift, authorities said. In many cases, investigators say she ripped open packaging, took the drugs, and then taped the package shut again before giving it to patients.
Charlotte County deputies arrested Constant for possession of drug paraphernalia back in 2014, but the assisted living facility’s manager says she passed a background check for the employment.
She was fired before her arrest, according to employees at the retirement center.
But Constant was on probation during her employment at the Courtyard Retirement Center, according to arrest records. In 2014 she accepted a plea deal for a number of criminal charges including batter of an officer and prescription drug violations, according to records.
Many plea deals include program perks that will keep charges from showing up in background checks, local employment attorney Denise Wheeler said. Constant may have been hired because employers don’t ask more questions, she said.
“A lot of times employers only ask about convictions; they don’t ask about arrests,” Wheeler said.
Constant contested allegations against her Thursday, saying in a written statement that she is innocent.
“I am not who they are portraying me to be,” Constant wrote. “I’ve been taking care of the elderly for ten years and have never been accused of such slander… I did not do what I’m being accused of and will prove my innocence.”