UF Health nurse arrested for second time on drug theft charges

JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – A Jacksonville nurse has been arrested and charged with stealing drugs from an employer for the second time.

Desiree Lato, 41, appeared in court Saturday morning after being arrested Friday while working at UF Health Jacksonville. She was charged with one count of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance.

The judge set Lato’s bail at $50,003 and ordered Lato to wear a drug patch, which a source says is used to absorb sweat and allows authorities to check his system for drugs. .

When Lato was arrested on the job, she had already been released from jail on bail following a July arrest in Clay County for stealing drugs from Orange Park Medical Center, where she worked in the emergency room.

Investigators in the Clay County case said the drugs she stole were intended for pain patients.

JSO’s arrest report, which details the allegation against Lato, was not available despite confirmation that she was taken to the Duval County Jail around 1:30 p.m. Friday.

Désirée Lato appeared in court on Saturday. (WJXT)

Lato was arraigned Tuesday in the Clay County case and pleaded not guilty. The case will therefore be judged. According to the arrest warrant, Lato had been under investigation since March. A hospital pharmacy manager told a detective there were several suspicious drug transactions from an automated machine that dispenses pills.

The pharmacy manager said there were medications that had not been scanned as being administered to a patient as well as no documentation as to why the pills were removed.

Investigators said surveillance video pointed to Lato as a suspect. The warrant affidavit also stated that hospital directors interviewed Lato and ordered him to take a urine sample drug test.

One of the nurses who witnessed the drug test told the pharmacy manager that she believed Lato had faked the urine sample by having a Foley pouch tied or taped to his body.

According to the affidavit, the urine sample was not a normal color.

“The medical community is actually very close. So when something happens we all know it,” said a nurse who wished to remain anonymous.

The nurse said it was troubling that “this information exists and that these people are still being hired to work at the bedside.”

“To hear of such violations happening in our hospitals, of nurses using and stealing drugs while on the job is actually appalling,” the nurse said.

Lato has an attorney representing her in the Jacksonville and Clay County cases. The trial of the Clay County case is scheduled for October. His next court date for the Jacksonville case is set for October 10.

UF Health sent the following statement when News4JAX inquired about Lato’s employment:

“The individual in question is no longer employed by UF Health Jacksonville. As this is an ongoing investigation, we ask that you contact the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for further information.

We also researched Lato’s nursing license and found that despite her recent arrests for drug theft, her license status is still clear and active, with no disciplinary cases.

New4JAX could not confirm whether UF Health conducted a background check on Lato or contacted his former employer, Orange Park Medical Center, to inquire about his employment there. However, a UF Health source said the hospital is facing a shortage of nurses and they usually check to make sure a nurse’s license is still active and in good standing.

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