Federal prosecutors say Sonja Emery fabricated her extensive credentials and professional experience in a scam that collected nearly $2 million in consulting fees over five years.
A healthcare consultant indicted in Michigan for allegedly falsifying her credentials and work experience was arrested this week in California, where she's collected more than $1 million in consulting fees over the past three years from a nonprofit health plan.
Sonja Emery, 52, who has been known to use a long list of aliases, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit on 11 counts of fraud and tax evasion, for a scam that ran from 2011 through 2014. She's been accused of continuing to deceive her employers since.
Emery was arrested on Tuesday and appeared before a federal judge in Oakland, California, who authorized her release on $50,000 unsecured bond. Prosecutors have appealed the decision.
In court documents urging Emery's detention without bond, federal prosecutors said she has "a long-established pattern dating back to at least 2006 of obtaining healthcare related employment using false names and work history."
"This past behavior reveals Emery's remarkable ability to obtain employment under false pretenses and her willingness to use false identities," prosecutors said.
A government investigation linked Emery to eight different Social Security numbers and three different names, which she gave to employers and law enforcement agencies in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, and Wisconsin, according to court documents.
She also allegedly claimed to be a registered nurse licensed in two states, but an investigation showed that she used the licensure numbers of two other people.
Apparently, healthcare organizations weren't the only ones fooled by Emery.
Federal prosecutors said Emery convinced local prosecutors in fraud cases on at least two occasions that she suffered from "brain tumor surgery" and cancer that "left her blind," without memory, and incapacitated—none of which was true. The documents Emery used to support her medical claims were forgeries, federal prosecutors said.
Contra Costa Health Plan
Since the alleged events took place in Michigan, Emery has been a contract consultant at Contra Costa Health Plan, a county-owned, nonprofit health plan, for the past three years.
John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders.