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State Briefs


November 11, 2021

Woman charged in theft of opioids

RIVERTON (WNE) — A Riverton woman is accused of stealing 1200 opioid pills from SageWest Health Care, where she worked in 2020. 

Maria Peterson, born 1973, now is charged with three counts of felony drug possession — each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 in fines — one misdemeanor drug possession charge and another misdemeanor theft. Peterson was transferred to Fremont County District Court for felony level prosecution on Oct. 1. 

Court documents assembled by a Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agent and filed in Riverton Circuit Court Sept. 3 allege that Peterson was responsible for transferring medications within the hospital, such as to different dispensers, or to disposal for expiration, but that about 1200 of the pills in her care did not make it to their slated destinations. 

The SageWest Health Care pharmacy department director had reported to Riverton Police Department in January 2021 that Peterson had been stealing prescription medications from the hospital. 

In 2019 and 2020, Peterson worked as a pharmacy technician for the hospital, court documents state. 

“Her job description did not involve providing medications for patients,” the affidavit reads, noting that she transferred medications from one location to another within the hospital using dispensing machines. 

The hospital tracks medications from place to place using paper and electronic logs. 

Court documents allege that tablets of “varying weights” were removed from the pharmacy or medicine cabinets at the hospital and that Peterson signed them out electronically or by initialing a paper log. 

“Rather than placing them in another location, the medications would become unaccounted for within the hospital system,” documents continue. 

GoFundMe campaign started for man injured in explosion

GILLETTE (WNE) — A GoFundMe has been created to help the 34-year-old man who was hurt in an explosion Sunday.

Antonio Soriano was working at an oil production site Sunday morning when there was an explosion. A pump house and two empty 400-barrel tanks caught fire.

Soriano was taken to the hospital and was “immediately transferred” to the Banner Rehabilitation Center in Greeley, Colorado, according to the GoFundMe page.

He had injuries to his face and hands, and Wednesday afternoon, a family friend, Samantha Perez, said Soriano was in surgery for his hands. The extent of his injuries was not known at the time.

His wife, Isabelle, is “devastated,” Perez said.

Isabelle is with Soriano right now, but she’ll have to eventually commute between Gillette and Colorado to work and take care of their three kids, ages 16, 13 and 8.

“We’re just doing what we can to help out, because the mom has to be over there with their dad, they don’t really have family here, just close friends,” Perez said.

The campaign has a $5000 goal, and it’s to pay for travel expenses and any unforeseen expenses that come up, Perez said.

“She works at a hotel, and she’s worried about having enough to pay the rent this month without her husband working,” Perez said.

Man who complained of snipers faces drug charge

PINEDALE (WNE) — A “very paranoid” Pinedale man who told Sublette County dispatchers on Oct. 12 that snipers were trying to shoot him faces a new felony drug possession charge as well as possible probation revocation. 

That day, John E. Handy was on court-ordered unsupervised probation after recently reaching a plea agreement for one felony charge of delivery of THC oil wax “dabs” and a third misdemeanor THC possession charge. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to five to seven years in prison, suspended for a 30- day jail sentence and three years unsupervised probation.

Deputies who talked with Handy Oct. 12 said he was hiding behind clothing and items in his truck and had called the sheriff’s office for protection. As Handy got out of his truck to get into a deputy’s car for protection, he was quickly searched and the deputy found an uncapped used syringe with liquid in it that tested presumptive positive for meth, according to court records.

Although the liquid was less than the felony amount of 3 grams, Handy’s prior possession convictions led to a new enhanced felony charge. 

Handy’s arraignment on the new drug charge is set for 9 a.m., Nov. 18, in 9th District Court. His probation revocation hearing is scheduled to follow his arraignment. 

Judge Marv Tyler had warned Handy at his sentencing that another possession misdemeanor could result in the felony. If he violated terms of his unsupervised probation, Handy could be ordered to report for imprisonment.

Lease sale revenue falls

CASPER (WNE) — Wyoming’s third oil and gas lease sale of the year grossed roughly $418,000, bringing the state’s leasing revenue to a final total of $1.3 million for 2021. 

Ranked eighth among crude oil-producing states, Wyoming has the second-highest share of oil production on federal lands. 

The triannual state lease sales are entirely separate from the quarterly federal sales overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 

The state relies on revenue from both types of leasing to fund a number of programs, including education. The Office of State Lands estimates that just over $400,000 from Wednesday’s sale will be added to the state’s K-12 fund — a significant drop from previous years. 

Amid the Biden administration’s nearly year-long moratorium on federal oil and gas leasing, which is set to end in early 2022, the state has continued to lease non-federal land for oil and gas development. 

It saw the lowest state lease sale revenue in more than a decade during the 2021 fiscal year, according to the October CREG report, with revenue dipping further through the end of the calendar year. 

Oil demand has recovered more rapidly from its 2020 lows than production, which continues to chart a slow return to pre-pandemic levels as oil markets remain volatile. The Nov. 3 sale generated less revenue than the nearly $600,000 earned in July, but more than the $259,000 earned in March. 

Year-over-year, November leasing revenue was down more than $1 million in 2021. In total, revenue from the state’s 2021 lease sales fell 73% compared with 2020, 86% compared with 2019 and 95% compared with 2018.


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