Psychiatrist and Counselor Indicted for Falsifying Medical Reports to Help Applicants for U.S. Citizenship Bypass Testing Requirements
CHICAGO — A psychiatrist and counselor in a Chicago medical practice were arrested today on charges they falsely diagnosed individuals as disabled in order to help them bypass certain tests for U.S. citizenship.
Dr. MAREK WALCZYK and KATARZYNA FERGEMANN fraudulently declared the applicants as suffering from a physical or mental impairment that purportedly rendered them unable to demonstrate the required knowledge of United States history and the English language, according to an indictment returned last month in U.S. District Court in Chicago. A medical certification of impairment allows individuals to seek an exemption from the civics and English-language tests required for naturalized U.S. citizenship.
Federal authorities arrested Walczyk and Fergemann this morning. During an arraignment later in the morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez, Walczyk and Fergemann pleaded not guilty and were released on $15,000 unsecured appearance bonds. A status hearing was scheduled for Jan. 7, 2016, at 9:45 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood.
Walczyk, 59, of Norridge, and Fergemann, 38, of Chicago, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, and two counts of attempted unlawful procurement of citizenship or naturalization. The conspiracy count is punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison, while the attempted unlawful procurement counts each carry a maximum sentence of ten years.
Walczyk is a licensed psychiatrist who operates a medical practice on the Northwest Side of Chicago. Fergemann is employed by the practice as a licensed counselor. According to the indictment, Fergemann prepared a written report stating that she administered diagnostic testing procedures on an individual seeking to apply for U.S. citizenship, and that the tests revealed the individual suffered from a social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and major depressive disorder, as well as a learning impairment resulting from those conditions. Fergemann issued the report knowing that the individual did not suffer from a physical or mental impairment, the indictment states.
Walczyk fraudulently certified Fergemann’s results as true and correct in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Form N-648, titled “Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions,” the indictment states. The false certification allowed the individual to request a physical or mental impairment exception to the civics and English-language tests required for U.S. citizenship, according to the indictment.
The indictment was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; James Gibbons, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The government is represented by Assistant United States Attorney Philip Fluhr.