Skip to main content

Nurse stole painkillers on more than 70 occasions from Minneapolis VA, charges say

The drugs have been targeted by police for their role in the ongoing opioid crisis.

On Friday, a Twin Cities nurse will answer to charges that he swindled tightly regulated drugs from a VA hospital.

Matthew Leininger worked at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis, where prosecutors say he stole fentanyl, morphine and oxycodone – all drugs that have been targeted by authorities for their role in America's ongoing opioid crisis. 

According to criminal charges filed in Hennepin County this month, Leininger got the medications from one of the hospital's Pyxis systems – which are basically pill-dispensing vending machines used by the medical industry.

The machine requires nurses to log in using their fingerprints, track the medication they're withdrawing and which patient it's going to. Nurses also have to note how much of the medication is administered and whether any is left over. 

The charges say Leininger missed those last two steps.

It's not clear how the scheme – which lasted for a six-month period beginning in June 2016 – was detected, but investigators began interviewing Leininger about the thefts in December 2016, and he was subsequently fired from the hospital in March of this year.

Authorities used records from the Pyxis system to find that the drugs had been stolen on more than 70 occasions, a news release says

Leininger later told investigators he used the drugs "to try to help his mental health," and also said the thefts had started "due to a lack of accountability with how the unit ran."

He's charged with five counts of theft by swindle, and was due to make his first court appearance Friday afternoon. 

The opioid epidemic

Authorities across the U.S. have been cracking down on opioid-related crimes lately, especially when they involve fatal overdoses.

In Minnesota, multiple heroin dealers have been charged with murder in connection with the deaths of their clients (you can read about a few of those cases by clicking here).

On April 21 of this year, Minnesota received a federal grant of more than $5 million to fight the rising tide of opioid overdose deaths.

Coincidentally, that was the one-year anniversary of Prince's death, which was caused by a painkiller overdose.

Next Up

D'Angelo Russell

With KAT out, Timberwolves can't upset Nets

D'Angelo Russell stepped up but couldn't overcome Brooklyn's firepower.

Everson Griffen Vikings dot com

Everson Griffen confirms he has bipolar disorder

"I’ve been running from it a long time. I’m not ashamed of it anymore.”

Angela Renee Jones, St. Cloud murder suspect

St. Cloud suspect now charged in two local murder cases

Both murders happened within a day of each other in June.

st anthony 3 crop

Twin Cities police ask for help finding missing 16-year-old

Police say all her family and friends have been contacted, and none of them know where she is.

mpd suspect 12.3.21 - 1 - CROP

MPD releases photos of shooting suspect, asks for public's help

The man is wanted in connection with a fatal shooting that happened Wednesday evening.

redmons popcorn colbert 2

Support grows for Redmon's Popcorn after shop's sudden closure

The county also commented on the situation, saying it hopes to help owner Zack Redmon.

prior lake high school

Prior Lake HS investigating another 'racist' video involving student

The principal said the social media video was reported to them this week.

Screen Shot 2021-12-03 at 3.08.27 PM

Walz: Minnesota has secured 1 million rapid, at-home COVID tests for kids

It comes as the delta variant continues to surge in Minnesota, and the omicron variant might follow.

boundary waters

Forest Service limiting permits to BWCAW due to damage, overcrowding

Visitors have been cutting down trees and have been forced to compete for campsites.

police lights

Lockdown update: Armed man threatened to go to Kimball High School

A high school and elementary school near St. Cloud went into lockdown as a precaution.

chaska sewer

People in Chaska are flushing the wrong crap down the toilet

Water and sewer crews in Chaska have had to clean the same pump four times in the past seven days.


USPS, post office

Charges: MN postal worker stole more than $74K from USPS

The alleged theft happened between November 2018 and August 2019, court documents state.

police lights

Police recover more than 14 pounds of meth, 4,000 pills during drug bust

Three people have been arrested and charged in connection to the drugs.

St. Paul PD issues warning after 6 overdoses in one day

Police suspect the substance may have been laced with fentanyl.

Minneapolis plans to sue companies that make and distribute painkillers

Opioid overdoses are rising – and treating them falls on first responders.