Tricks Without Treats: Posing as Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners Can Lead to Prison

October 26th 2016
Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor
Lauren Santye, Assistant Editor

Playing dress-up as a health care practitioner beyond Halloween can run in defiance of the law.

Halloween is a holiday that brings out the creativity in people, allowing them to transform into anyone or anything they want to be. But this practice can run afoul of the law when some individuals are unable to draw the line between make believe and real life, as they pretend to be qualified for careers that ultimately landed them in jail.

Here is a list of 4 unqualified individuals who posed as physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

  1. Matthew Scheidt

In September 2011, this Florida teen was arrested for impersonating a physician assistant (PA), quickly gaining national media attention, according to theOrlando Sentinel. Scheidt, age 17 at the time, posed as a PA for nearly a week, and often provided one-on-one care to patients. According toABC News, the teen pulled off this stunt by telling human resources that he was part of a program at Nova Southeastern University, and that he was in need of a replacement badge because the information was not-up-to-date. The new badge donned his name, picture, and title as a PA.ABCreported that Scheidt successfully performed chest compressions on a patient who was in cardiac arrest for 5 minutes, helped restrain a combative patient, cleaned and dressed wounds, and removed an IV from a patient who was being discharged. However, he had access to private information and carried out procedures that could have been potentially life-threatening to patients. This trickery is not the first stunt Scheidt has pulled, in fact, as a 13-year-old volunteer at St. Cloud Medical Center, he was allegedly caught posing as a nurse, according to theOrlando Sentinel.

If you thought that Scheidt, who was facing 6 charges at the time, had learned his lesson, you thought wrong. Not long after he was released on bail following the hospital-related arrest, Scheidt was charged again in January 2012, this time for grand theft, impersonating a police officer, carrying a concealed firearm and carrying a concealed weapon, as reported by theSentinel. According to theOsceola County Sheriff’s Office, detectives were contacted by the Miami Beach Police Depart regarding an arrest of Scheidt impersonating a police officer. In his possession was a non-functioning Motorola radio and an identification card belonging to the Sheriff’s Office. The ID card, which was reported missing by Scheidt in 2010, indicated that he was a part of the Explorers program, according to the county sheriff’s office. Scheidt belonged to the program from 2007 to 2010, until he was terminated for violating policies, which included overstepping his explorer duties by attempting to mislead people into believing he was a deputy, according to a police report as reported byABC. Scheidt was convicted in August 2012 at 18-years-old of 2 counts of impersonation and 2 counts of practicing without a license. He served a year in jail, with most of his time spent in solitary confinement, plus another year of house arrest,ABCstated. He is currently still serving his 8 years of probation.

  1. Shawna Gunter

In hopes of accruing a higher paycheck, Gunter, 36, posed as a physician assistant at a Centreville physician’s office in 2013, where she treated patients and prescribed medications, according toThe Baltimore Sun. Gunter provided false documents to the pediatrician, including a false resume, a fabricated diploma from Howard University, and a forged physician assistant certificate, with a license number that belonged to an actual physician assistant. She also had the person’s DEA controlled substance registration certificate, according to a press release by theDepartment of Justice. During Gunter’s 11 day stint, she diagnosed and treated 137 infants and children, and wrote more than 400 prescriptions. She was convicted in February 2015 of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, and was sentenced to 3 years in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release, including 6 months of house arrest, the press release stated. Additionally, Gunter was ordered to pay restitution of $53,530.

According to court documents, in June 2013 Gunter worked as a surgical assistant in a physician’s office in Maryland. During this time, she allegedly swindled money out of the physician stating she needed a $7,800 loan for emergency repairs to her septic system, when in actuality she was remodeling her boyfriend’s house. After receiving the money, Gunter was alleged to have stolen a check from the physician, forging their signature and making it out for $14,400.

  1. Annette Ternes

The 56-year-old registered nurse and owner of the now-closed Quick Care Clinic was charged this year for pretending to be a licensed nurse practitioner, allegedly writing dozens of prescriptions she was unauthorized to write, reportedKRQE News 13. Ternes was charged with 224 felony counts of identification theft, practicing medicine without a license, and forgery, among other charges, according to a report byClovis News Journal. The crimes took place between March 2015 and September 2015, where she allegedly stole the qualifications of a real nurse practitioner out of Albuquerque. The crimes first came to light after the NP’s interest in a job in Clovis, New Mexico, where he interviewed with none other than Ternes herself. Although the NP did not end up taking the job, he later found out through the insurance company that his DEA number and authorization to use prescriptions were allegedly being used by Clovis, according senior investigator Keith Bessette, for the District Attorney’s Office, as reported byKRQE. As of September 2016, theClovis News Journalreported that the trial is potentially being delayed due to issues that surfaced between the prosecution and defense regarding potential witnesses and contact methods. A jury trial is planned for October 25, 2016.

  1. Brenda Heath

Through a scheme cooked up between 2 sisters, Brenda Heath allegedly worked as a fake nurse practitioner on-and-off for 5 years after using her sister’s license, according to reports by theNY Post. Heath’s sister, NP Maureen Russell, was hired by elite Frances Stewart Agency in 2010, and assigned as a baby nurse for the newborn twins of 2 Manhattan investment advisors. According to thePost, Russell sent her sister instead, who had zero CPR or first aid training, and no nursing license. The wages were then split between the sisters. In an effort to hold onto the job as long as possible, Heath intentionally delayed the development of the couple’s youngest son, thePostreported. At one point, Heath allegedly got into a physical altercation with the youngest boy and his mother in November 2015, resulting in Heath’s termination. According to thePostreport, the family is seeking more than $1 million in damages and wage reimbursement from the sisters.

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