Health care facilities throughout Billings remained on alert Tuesday after it was confirmed that a woman had posed as a nurse at Billings Clinic.
“We’re watching,” said Barbara Schneeman, director of communication and advocacy at RiverStone Health, Yellowstone County’s public-health agency. “We are definitely mindful of the situation. We are keeping eyes and ears open.”
Schneeman said Billings Clinic notified Riverstone CEO John Felton at 9 a.m. last Thursday of the nurse impostor. A photo of the woman, identified by hospital officials as Angela Corson-Smith, of Billings, was distributed to Riverstone security officials and other staff members.
Julie Burton, director of communications of Billings Clinic, said the Clinic reported the incident to the Billings Police Department. Burton said an individual had claimed to be a nurse practitioner student and that hospital officials are working closely with the Police Department and the Yellowstone County Attorney's office.
"We are taking this matter very seriously and have our entire organization on alert pertaining to this situation," Burton said in a prepared statement.
Contacted by The Gazette, Corson-Smith on Tuesday declined to comment and referred all questions to her attorney, Greg Johnson, of Billings. Johnson said he never met her before Tuesday afternoon and knows nothing about the issue.
"I suspect in the full course of things, the truth will (come) out and she will be exonerated," Johnson said.
Curtis Harper, regional director of Public Safety, Emergency Management and Forensic Investigation for St. Vincent Healthcare, was notified by Billings Clinic on Friday about the breach of security at the Clinic.
Harper then sent an email to all St. Vincent employees advising them to be on the alert for the woman. She is described as a white female with blonde hair, 5 feet, 3 inches tall, weighing 130 pounds.
Four photos of the woman were also distributed to all St. Vincent Healthcare employees Friday afternoon.
Harper said the woman goes by three names: Angela Corson-Smith, Angela Hanson and Angela Smith.
She has claimed to be a physician assistant student, a nurse practitioner student, a neonatal intensive care unit nurse and even the director of nursing, Harper wrote in the memo. She frequently dresses in blue scrubs and a white lab coat.
“She is a talented liar and will invent all sorts of stories as to who she is and what she is doing,” Harper told employees. She accompanied physicians as they checked on patients on a number of occasions at Billings Clinic. She has some medical background, so she was able to speak like she belongs in a hospital, Harper said.
“Our first obligation is to keep our patients safe,” said Jason Barker, president and CEO of St. Vincent Healthcare. “Billings isn’t Mayberry RFD anymore.”
Billings Police Chief Rich St. John said Monday that he received a complaint about the woman last week and that a detective had been assigned to investigate.
That investigation continued Tuesday, St. John said, and no arrest had been made. The police chief said he met during the day with detectives and prosecutors to discuss the case.
St. John declined to confirm the identity of a possible suspect, noting that in most cases that step is not taken until an arrest is made. But St. John did acknowledge that in this case the woman's name has been widely disseminated.
Detectives had not spoken with the woman as of Tuesday, St. John said.
Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said Tuesday that he is aware of the investigation, which he described as a "very unusual set of allegations," and that law enforcement continues its probe.
Twito said a review of state statutes indicates that a person who impersonates a health care worker could be charged with a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $10,000 fine.
State law provides that a person "who by means of bribery, theft, or misrepresentation of identity ... examines or obtains ... health care information maintained by a health care provider" is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Depending on the outcome of the investigation, Twito said, it is also possible that a person could face felony theft or fraud charges if there is a financial motive or gain.
Twito said he hopes to meet soon with officials at the U.S. Attorney's Office to discuss whether any federal laws apply in the case.