Cory Morse first learned about the opiate fentanyl watching a show on the Discovery Channel last summer, the 22-year-old Spokane man said in an interview Friday at the Spokane County Jail.
“It’s a fairly new drug. It’s the most addictive drug I’ve ever done,” he said, adding he’s been doing drugs since he was 13 or 14. Morse and his girlfriend, Lacey Sell, were arrested Thursday on multiple counts of theft and burglary for allegedly stealing fentanyl patches from elder-care facilities, in some cases taking the pain-medicine delivery patches off patients’ bodies. Police said they know of at least five repeat victims but suspect there are more.
After obtaining the drug, the couple would cut the corners off the medicine patches and squeeze out the gel so they could “freebase it,” said Morse, who said he recently lost his job as a lift operator at an area ski resort. “We were smokin’ it. It works faster that way. It only took a couple hits to get high,” he said.
Morse and Sell made their first court appearances Friday. A bond of $50,000 was set for each.
Federal drug officials say fentanyl thefts are rare.
“I’ve heard of that happening before, but it’s not common,” said Ruth Carter, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration supervisor in Seattle. “We haven’t seen a rise in reports of fentanyl being stolen (in Washington).”
About five years ago, “we were seeing a lot of deaths because people were cutting fentanyl with their heroin,” said Michael Sanders, DEA spokesman at the Washington, D.C., bureau. Morse said Friday he needed to go back to drug rehabilitation. He’s been twice before, he said.
But he said he did not take fentanyl patches off patients’ bodies.
“I was offended” by the accusation from police, Morse said.
Instead, he said he and Sell rummaged through medical waste at nursing homes and care centers, because the patches still have fentanyl in them when they’re thrown away. Police said Thursday that Morse gained entry to the centers by pretending to be visiting residents.
Nursing home employees told police the thefts became so common that if they saw Morse or Sell they’d chase them out, Spokane police Detective Stacey Carr said.
The nurses would then check patients for patches and find the patches missing, Carr said. The staff at one nursing home moved patients around to make it harder for outsiders to find them.
“It disgusts me, the thought of these people in pain,” Carr said.
Since the news of the thefts has come out, two additional nursing homes have called Spokane police to report fentanyl thefts.
“I understand what I’ve done is wrong, I should be punished in some way,” Morse said. But “I’m not angry. I’m not rude. I’m not offensive. I don’t try to do mean things. I try to be a good person. I’m just addicted to drugs.”