Fake Nurse Indicted By Federal Government, Faces Prison Time
Image: Leticia Gallarzo
In a recent announcement, U.S. Attorney Mark Totten for the Western District of Michigan revealed a significant development in the case of Leticia Gallarzo, a 48-year-old resident of Allegan County, who posed as a nurse three times.
The federal grand jury has handed down an indictment that includes charges of,
- Wire fraud,
- Aggravated identity theft,
- Making false statements in medical records affecting health care benefit programs
- The production of a false identification document
These allegations all revolve around a scheme orchestrated by Gallarzo, who allegedly posed as a registered nurse in an attempt to defraud unsuspecting employers.
If convicted, Gallarzo could be looking at a maximum prison sentence of up to 20 years for wire fraud, with an additional two-year mandatory imprisonment for each count of aggravated identity theft, to be served consecutively to the underlying sentence.
Original article 8/9/2023
In a shocking case of identity theft and fraudulent impersonation, Leticia Gallarzo, 48, has been charged by the Department of Justice with posing as a registered nurse for the third time in her criminal history. She used a licensing number and the name of a nurse, “Leticia Perri” to apply for a position at a Grand Rapids hospice care facility located in Allegan County, Michigan. The officials reported that she also used a fake driver’s license, stolen nursing license, and fake diploma for a master's degree in nursing from George Washington University.
On May 8th, 2023, Leticia Gallarzo applied to an Indeed job posting for a registered nurse under the guise of Leticia Perri. Gallarzo reportedly went to an in-person orientation on May 15th, 2023, where she provided nursing care to vulnerable patients. Her deception was so convincing that she was hired for the role of a unit manager, where she supervised and managed certified nursing assistants to ensure that tasks were completed efficiently.
During her time as a “nurse”, Gallarzo earned over $1,000 in wages for her services. However, her criminal past caught up with her when the Grand Rapids hospice care facility discovered her prior history and reported it to the Michigan State Police. Her fingerprints were taken on May 23rd as a routine check when the Grand Rapids hospice care facility learned of her prior history. Michigan State Police acquired the information that Gallarzo was impersonating a nurse on June 1st, 2023.
Once in custody, Gallarzo requested a lawyer before answering questions. A search warrant was obtained where the Michigan State Police found a forged driver’s license and a second Michigan nursing license that belonged to one of her recent coworkers. If Gallarzo is convicted, she will receive 15 years in prison.
Finding Out the Prior Charges
The facility performed a background check with fingerprints and found out that Gallarzo had prior convictions in Texas of practicing nursing with no license in 2014 and 2015. The FBI reported that her background check showed that she was "permanently excluded from working in a setting that provided direct services to a patient or resident of a nursing home, hospice facility or other similar facilities."
Gallarzo had been convicted of five counts of falsifying medical records regarding health benefits and services while pretending to be a nurse in October 2015, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. These include,
In 2016, the 17th Circuit Court in Kent County convicted Gallarzo of the identity theft of another nurse from November 2014 to February 2015.
March 2015, she was convicted again of falsifying medical records through Goliad County in Texas after impersonating a nurse again from March 2015 to September 2015.
In 2022, Gallarzo used the name Leticia Perri but was caught by the company's Chief Administrative and Compliance Officer for the name not matching her driver’s license.
When the case was unsealed in federal court, Gallarzo surrendered to the FBI on August 2nd, 2023. According to the Criminal Complaint allegations posted by the Department of Justice, she is facing counts of Identity theft and unauthorized practice of a health professional.
According to FBI Acting Special Agent Devin J. Kowalski, "Any unqualified person who poses as a medical professional puts the lives of innocent patients at risk, as alleged in this case, I would like to thank the Michigan State Police for their outstanding investigative work during this case. The FBI remains committed to working with our partners to ensure identity theft cases like this one are thoroughly investigated."
U.S. Attorney Mark Totten also acknowledged the seriousness of the accusations, stating, “My office takes these accusations very seriously."
This incident highlights the pressing need for healthcare facilities to implement robust hiring and background check protocols to prevent individuals with fraudulent intentions from infiltrating the healthcare system and putting patients at risk. The implications of this case go beyond Gallarzo's individual actions, as it raises concerns about the overall integrity of hiring practices within the healthcare industry.