Health Professional Imposters-Part 1

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Several years ago, we in law enforcement had a problemthat essentially shocked greater Cincinnati, Ohio, whena man surfaced as a physician imposter. I was contacted bya police officer who had befriended this man I will call "Dr.Jones." The officer had concerns that Dr. Jones was not reallya physician.

Because it was Sunday afternoon, attempting to verify Dr.Jones' professional status was somewhat difficult. I was ableto find out that he was on the pager list at one of the largesthospitals in the region. During the initial interview, heseemed confident and indignantthat he was being put through anordeal of verifying his professionalcredentials. We were forced torelease him that afternoon, sincewe were unable to verify that hewas not a physician, and someinformation actually pointed tothe fact that he was a bona fidedoctor.

His alleged health professionalbackground unraveled quickly onMonday morning, however. Itwas interesting to find that hehad used Cincinnati emergencyrooms (ERs) as his base of operationwith his "patients." Dr. Joneshad met many of the patients inarea saloons, and they neededphysical examinations for workor, in the case of one man, neededa minor surgical procedure toremove excess skin from his leg.Dr. Jones used a local anesthetic available in the ER andremoved the skin with a scalpel.

Because Dr. Jones wore a white coat and carried a stethoscope,he was never challenged in the ER or anywhere elsein several local hospitals. He had successfully forged a namebadge. He was able to attend educational sessions andviewed countless procedure videos he procured from themedical library.

Dr. Jones conducted a cervical exam on one woman,including taking swabs for a Pap test that had to be repeatedwhen he told the patient that the laboratory had lost thesample he had submitted. During the second exam, he toldthe woman that she had breast cancer, causing understandablestress until she verified that it was not true.

Dr. Jones later ended up at another hospital at the bedsideof a woman who was about to have a baby. He felt her stomach,predicted the weight of the baby, and stayed by her sideuntil almost the time of delivery. Once again, he was notquestioned, and his birth weight estimation was accuratewithin 1 oz!

Dr. Jones was able to write a few prescriptions during histenure as a local physician in good standing. Several pharmaceuticalrepresentatives hadapproached him in the doctor'slounge and gladly provided himwith samples and blank prescriptions.

What may surprise readers isthat Dr. Jones barely had a highschool education and had worked as a police dispatcher at alocal law enforcement agency in northern Kentucky. He had nomedical training of any kind. He had convinced his girlfriend thathe was a physician and ultimately bilked her out of $25,000.

Dr. Jones was arrested and charged with several serious felonyoffenses. He ultimately pleaded guilty and was given a 2-year prison sentence. He alsoagreed to provide us with a video explaining how he had kept thisruse going for almost 18 months. He served his time, and then, while on parole, he impersonatedan attorney, which sent him back to court and brought him more prison time.

How unusual is this case? Next month, I will discuss acouple of other incidents across the country involving otherhealth professionals, including pharmacists.

John Burke, director of the Warren County, Ohio, drug task force and retired commander of the CincinnatiPolice Pharmaceutical Diversion Squad, is a 32-year veteran of law enforcement. For information, hecan be reached by e-mail at burke@choice.net, via the Web site www.rxdiversion.com, or by phone at 513-336-0070.