SAN JOSE -- Two nurses working at the Santa Clara County Jail have been arrested on suspicion of pilfering narcotics from drug caches intended for inmates' medical care, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office confirmed Tuesday.

Elmer Alegado, 50, of Lathrop, and Rodolfo Idian, 54, of San Jose, were arrested last week following an investigation launched at the end of October that probed the suspected theft of medication from the jail's prescription stockpiles, said Sgt. Jose Cardoza. The information given to investigators suggested that jail nurses might be involved.

Alegado was booked into County Jail and has since posted bail. Idian was processed by the Sheriff's Office and released on his own recognizance.

Cardoza declined to go into great detail, citing an ongoing investigation, but said that when they were arrested Alegado and Idian were in possession of controlled substances outside the scope of their work duties.

"They had no reason to possess it on their person," Cardoza said.

According to jail sources, Alegado was a part-time employee of the county's custody health division, which assigns nurses to the main jail facility in downtown San Jose. It was not immediately clear whether the nurses were acting individually or in concert. It is believed that other nurses have been investigated but no additional arrests have been made.

When the theft investigation came to light, the nursing staff at the jail was subjected to searches of their personal belongings and storage lockers.


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Typically, medication at the jail is stored in locked dispensers and any medication that goes unused is supposed to be returned. But because of the harried pace of nursing shifts, unused medication sometimes might not be returned until later in the day. Some of the drugs suspected to have been stolen may have been secreted away in cases where an inmate refused medication after it had already been recorded as dispensed.

News of the suspected theft sent shock waves through the tight-knit band of medical staff charged with the challenging task of working in an environment where security and personal safety are always a concern.

Cardoza said a thorough investigation into the matter was particularly important to ensure transparency of the jail's internal workings that are mostly hidden from public view.

"We want to make sure we're complete and thorough," he said. "You have to be transparent and look into it regardless of who may be implicated."

Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.