In a case that is leaving concerned parties with more questions than answers, authorities have arrested a woman who was posing as a nurse at a hospice facility in Georgia. Taiwo Sobamowo, aged 32, used stolen credentials and a similar name to gain employment at Peachtree Christian Hospice in Duluth. The woman, who even provided the name of the school where she claimed to have earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in nursing, had no medical training whatsoever, not even a lower-level nursing assistant certification.
Unfortunately, her claim that she was a licensed registered nurse put her in direct responsibility for the medical care of her patients, including the high-profile celebrity patient Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of singers Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston, who died while Sobamowo was her nurse.
Brown was 22 years old when she died on July 26th; Sobamowo was fired August 5th when she couldn’t provide proof of her nursing credentials, having only provided a nursing license number and false claims of higher education to the facility where she worked. According to some reports, Sobamowo was later working in a Cumming, Georgia, assisted living facility in September when the police received a tip.
This is unfortunately not an isolated case of medical personnel stealing credentials and committing employment fraud. A recent case in Dallas resulted in an identity thief receiving a four-year federal prison sentence after she used stolen documents to pose as a registered nurse. She was found guilty of practicing nursing without a license and identity theft after treating nearly 250 patients in eight different area hospice facilities.
The heart-stopping fear in cases like this is obvious; no one wants to envision their medical care being determined by someone who has no education or training whatsoever. It’s especially chilling that the patients in these criminals’ care were receiving hospice support. Unlike nursing specialties like pediatrics or surgical, the thieves knew there would be little cause for alarm if their patients were to die due to their lack of training. Basically, they could get away with it because their patients were already presumed to be dying.
But there are other victims in these types of cases, and that’s the individuals whose identities were stolen. Apart from the issue of practicing nursing without the ability—and therefore making the “real” nurse culpable for malpractice and putting a black mark on her career records, at least until the matter is resolved—the victims of identity theft were also reported to have more income than they actually earned. The victims could owe more in taxes due to the additional income, and any government or disability benefits they might be receiving could be canceled due to the additional income.
Unfortunately, as our senior population in America is living longer and more people are relocating around the country with their jobs, too many people face the fear of leaving a loved one in the care of strangers. This is why so many people take comfort in using a licensed, vetted facility to provide medical personnel. But with the ease of identity theft and the savviness of many career criminals, even the best facilities can be duped into hiring someone with improper credentials.
If you choose to hire a private duty nurse for your loved one, your options will include requesting full college transcripts, official copies of their medical licenses, and even a criminal background check with fingerprints. However, if your family member will be staying in a licensed facility, you’re not allowed to make those demands. Instead, you can select your facility based on the thoroughness of their hiring requirements in order to avoid an imposter providing medical care to your loved one.