Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced Shawna Michelle Gunter, age 37, of Annapolis, Maryland, late yesterday to three years in prison followed by three years of supervised release, which includes six months of home detention with electronic monitoring, for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to pose as a physician’s assistant to obtain employment, diagnose and treat 137 infants and children, and write over 400 prescriptions, all without a medical license. Judge Bennett also entered an order that Gunter pay restitution of $53,530.39.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Lt. Colonel Anthony C. Satchell, Acting Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Special Agent in Charge Nicholas DiGiulio, Office of Investigations, Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services; and Secretary-designee Mark Belton of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
“Shawna Michelle Gunter fraudulently posed as a licensed physician’s assistant, treating patients and writing prescriptions, although she had no medical training,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
According to her plea agreement, in June 2013, Gunter worked as a surgical assistant in a doctor’s office in Maryland. She told the doctor that she needed a $7,800 loan for emergency repairs to her septic system, when in fact she was remodeling her boyfriend’s house. Despite receiving this money, on June 21, 2013, Gunter stole a check from the doctor and forged the doctor’s signature on the check for $14,400. When confronted, she admitted the theft and was fired. These funds, totaling $22,200, have not been repaid.
Gunter searched for another job and learned that a prior acquaintance, a pediatrician who had offices in Centreville and Chestertown, Maryland, was looking for a physician’s assistant. Gunter falsely told the doctor that she had just graduated from Howard University with a degree as a physician’s assistant. Gunter faxed a false resume to the doctor. The doctor hired Gunter with the understanding that she would provide documentation of her education, Maryland physician assistant’s license and DEA certification reflecting her authority to issue prescriptions.
Gunter began work for the pediatrician as a physician’s assistant on July 5, 2013. She was immediately asked for the documentation. Knowing that she was not licensed as a physician’s assistant in Maryland, Gunter provided a forged physician’s assistant certificate bearing the license number of an actual physician’s assistant, as well as an altered copy of that individual’s DEA controlled substance registration certificate. She also provided a fabricated diploma, purportedly from Howard University.
Gunter began seeing pediatric patients without direct supervision on August 18, 2013. From August 19 to 29, Gunter diagnosed and treated 137 infants and children, including for sick visits, ADHD follow-ups, newborn visits and routine physicals. During this time, Gunter issued over 400 prescriptions for controlled substances.
Gunter’s provision of unlicensed and unqualified medical care resulted in the pediatrician’s practice unwittingly submitting hundreds of false claims for Medicaid coverage, and the payment of $19,668.19 in fees on those false claims.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the Maryland State Police, HSI Baltimore, Department of Health and Human Services OIG and Maryland Natural Resources Police for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Tamera L. Fine and Zachary A. Myers, who prosecuted the case.