We all know that Halloween only takes place in October. But that didn’t stop Theresa Pickering from dressing up as a doctor on a regular basis. As reported by the Northern District of Georgia branch of the U.S. Attorney's Office yesterday, the 55 year-old Norcross, Georgia resident has spent a lot of time posing as a licensed physician’s assistant. As a result, she is now behind bars.
Following her trial, Pickering was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison. Her time is to be followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $48,742.30. Pickering’s actions resulted in approximately $147,000 in attempted losses to insurers.
There are many dangers to posing as a licensed practitioner.
Firstly, it should go without saying that it can be harmful to patients. A person who poses as a licensed practitioner may not have the necessary education, training or experience to properly diagnose and treat patients. This can lead to misdiagnosis, incorrect treatment and even harm to patients.
Of course, there are also legal ramifications. If a person poses as a licensed practitioner and causes harm to a patient, he/she can be held legally liable for his/her actions. This can result in civil lawsuits, criminal charges, fines and even imprisonment. Not to mention, a person who poses as a licensed practitioner can damage the reputation of licensed practitioners in that field. This can erode public trust in the profession and lead to decreased business for legitimate practitioners.
Pickering once worked as a licensed physician’s assistant.
On or about September 24, 2019, Pickering began working at a Norcross-based family practice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reports. She was not a licensed physician’s assistant in Georgia at that time. As well, Pickering had not been a licensed physician’s assistant in any state since March 2014.
In fact, she served a prison sentence for a 2015 fraud and narcotics case. The case was related to her illegal practice as a physician’s assistant in the State of Mississippi. Nevertheless, while employed at the Norcross-based family practice, Pickering treated patients, diagnosed illnesses, ordered diagnostic tests and lab work, and handled sick visits and prescribed drugs to patients.
None of Pickering’s work was authorized by law.
She both lacked licensure and was excluded from federal health care programs based on her previous illegal activities. “Pickering also issued prescriptions, including prescriptions for controlled substances, in the name of Doctor 1, a physician contracted by the practice, and without Doctor 1’s permission,” the report details, “Pickering caused the practice to submit at least approximately $147,000 in fraudulent claims for reimbursement to Medicare and numerous private insurance companies.”
Keri Farley is the Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. She had the following to say about Pickering’s sentencing: “Pickering did not learn from her previous fraud conviction. Instead, she chose to continue to endanger patient lives through theft and lies. This sentence will serve as a reminder to others that the FBI will not tolerate healthcare providers who engage in schemes that defraud the industry and put innocent patients at risk.”
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