An advanced practice registered nurse in Lander was sentenced last week to one year of probation for improperly acquiring a controlled substance, according to federal court records.

U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson handed down the sentence to Margaret Easley during a hearing in Cheyenne on June 18, and federal prosecutors dismissed 25 other counts of a second superseding indictment.

Easley, owner of Lander Valley Family Practice, P.C., was initially charged in July 2018 with five counts of dispensing controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose, and two of those counts said the distributions caused the deaths of two individuals.

A superseding indictment was handed up by the federal grand jury in January 2019, and a second superseding indictment was handed up in July 2019.

The second indictment listed 26 counts -- 25 of them being unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, with three causing death -- and one count of acquiring "a controlled substance my misrepresentation, deception or subterfuge."

Easley pleaded to that last count in October 2019, and all other counts were dismissed by prosecutors at her sentencing. If the case had gone to trial and she was convicted on all counts, she could have received a sentence of 40 years to life imprisonment.

Federal court records do not indicate why the 25 counts were dismissed.

The terms of Easley's sentencing included one year of probation with six months of that in home detention, a $2,000 fine, requirements for proper tax filings, and never again seeking the right to prescribe.

While the federal charges were first filed in July 2018, the Wyoming State Board of Nursing in 2014 had initiated an administrative complaint against Easley based on a Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation review of possible improper prescribing practices and high volumes and frequencies of prescriptions of controlled substances. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration worked with the DCI.

The DCI's report alleged a patient of Easley's died from oxycodone intoxication. That patient's initials corresponds to the initials of a name in the indictment under the count of distributing controlled substances resulting in death.

In early 2015, Easley agreed to refrain from prescribing controlled substances, provide medical records, and take educational courses.

As a result of the investigation and Easley's cooperation, the Board of Nursing issued a letter of reprimand with the conditions she be monitored for two years, receive further education, and observe other restrictions.

When the charges were filed two years ago, Wyoming U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen issued a press release saying prosecuting such cases is part of the national effort to combat prescription drug abuse.

That drew a sharp rebuke from Easley's office in a prepared statement saying Klassent violated the rules of federal court with the extrajudicial statement.

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