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Document and Benefit Fraud

Maryland woman indicted for treating patients while fraudulently posing as a physician's assistant

BALTIMORE — A federal grand jury indicted a 36-year-old Severna Park, Md., woman on charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and health care fraud.

Shawna Michelle Gunter allegedly used stolen identity to gain employment at a doctor's office, treated 200 patients, including infants, and wrote prescriptions. The indictment was returned March 18 and unsealed April 4 upon Gunter's arrest. Gunter faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for wire fraud and health care fraud, and two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence, for each of two counts of aggravated identity theft.

The indictment follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Ocean City; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) Office of Investigations; the Maryland State Police; and the Maryland Natural Resources Police.

"This case involves very troubling allegations that Shawna Michelle Gunter fraudulently posed as a licensed physician's assistant, treating patients and writing prescriptions, although she has no medical training," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "I commend the Maryland State Police for their quick response, which brought the charade to an end."

According to the four-count indictment and search warrant affidavit, from July 5 to Aug. 29, 2013, Gunter acted as a physician's assistant, even though she did not have the medical education, training or qualifications to do so. Gunter sought employment as a physician's assistant with a pediatrician who had offices in Centreville and Chestertown, Md. To gain employment, Gunter allegedly provided a forged Howard University physician's assistant diploma. She also allegedly provided a forged physician's assistant certificate bearing the license number of another physician assistant practicing in Salisbury, without the victim's knowledge or approval, as well as a forged DEA controlled substance registration certificate bearing a registration number that was almost identical to the victim's.

Gunter started her employment as a physician assistant July 5, 2013. She began seeing patients alone Aug. 18, 2013. According to the affidavit, between Aug. 18 to 29, 2013, Gunter saw and treated around 200 Medicaid patients for sick visits, ADHD follow-ups, newborn visits and routine physicals. Each medical visit resulted in a claim submitted to Medicaid and in turn, money paid to the pediatrician's practice for medical services allegedly provided by an unlicensed and unqualified individual. Gunter also wrote numerous prescriptions that were filled by the patients and paid by Medicaid.

The affidavit alleges that Aug. 29, 2013, the physician owner of the pediatric practice contacted the Maryland State Police upon receiving an anonymous communication informing him that Gunter was not qualified to be a physician's assistant. That same day, Maryland State Police arrested Gunter at the pediatrician's office in Centreville. At the time of her arrest, Gunter had three of the pediatric doctor's prescription pads in the pocket of a white doctor's coat that she was wearing. Officers also seized from her purse numerous items including another prescription pad belonging to a surgeon who Gunter previously worked for, a folder containing a schedule of patients and their illnesses for each day in August and originals of all of the fraudulent documents Gunter provided to the pediatrician.

The affidavit further alleges that that between April and October 2013 Gunter filled multiple prescriptions for Gabapentin, Divalproex and Cymbalta, purportedly written by a doctor for whom Gunter formerly worked, for her own child. The doctor advises that she never saw Gunter's child as a patient. The child has since seen another doctor who directed that the child be slowly weaned off the medications.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamera L. Fine.