Fake 'Nurse of the Year' sent to jail
Th ct post reports how a woman who pretended to be a nurse and even staged her own "Nurse of the Year" party in 2008 was sent to jail after pleading guilty to criminal impersonation, practicing nursing without a license and second-degree forgery. As judicial marshals put handcuffs over her wrists to begin her nine-month sentence, Betty Lichtenstein, 57, mouthed the words "I love you" to her shaken daughter, Monica, sitting in the front row of a Norwalk courtroom.
A few minutes before the State Superior Court Judge pronounced the sentence, Lichtenstein -- who had no real training as a nurse, but dispensed medical advice and administered shots to patients as if she had a license -- apologized for what she had done. "I know that what I did was very, very wrong. I am so sorry for what I did and I am so sorry if I endangered anyone," she told Hudock. She went on to say that there is no chance that she would do anything like that again and she said that she took responsibility for what she had done.
After being investigated by the state Medicaid Fraud Control Unit between March and August 2009, Lichtenstein was charged with illegal use of the registered nurse title, six counts of second-degree reckless endangerment and criminal impersonation. Three months earlier, she was arrested for forging a prescription for pain killers she obtained while pretending to be a nurse for Dr. Gerald Weiss in Norwalk.
In November 2008, according to her arrest warrant affidavit, she received the Nurse of the Year award at a dinner supposedly hosted by the Connecticut Nursing Association. Investigators in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Chief State's Attorney's Office determined no such organization exists and that she spent $2,000 to stage the event, the affidavit said. Taking a plea agreement where she agreed to serve up to a year in jail, Lichtenstein this past summer pleaded guilty to the reduced charges; those she did not plead guilty to were all but dismissed.
During the sentencing hearing, her attorney acknowledged the case held a "bizarre" set of facts, many of which cannot be explained. But he said Lichtenstein thought Weiss was complicit in the charade, especially because he was the keynote speaker at the phony awards dinner. He also told Hudock that Lichtenstein was in very bad health and any sentence could be a "death sentence" for her. He said Lichtenstein had a pacemaker, a deteriorating heart muscle, congestive heart disease and diabetes. Because of that, Urso said a three-year probation sentence with no jail time would ensure she does not endanger the public, while allowing her to keep what little remains of the rest of her life.
Supervisory Assistant State's Attorney Christopher Godialis, who was prosecuting the case, said Lichtenstein should be made to serve the full year in jail. Hudock said he did not think any sentence would be a death sentence for Lichtenstein and his first obligation was community safety. He said those who go to nurses and doctors expect to get the best treatment possible from those who are qualified. "By putting yourself up as something you were not and were never, you endangered the community," Hudock said. He then gave her a five-year sentence, suspended after nine months served and followed by three years probation.
As a condition of her release after she serves the sentence, Hudock said Lichtenstein could have no contact with Weiss, his employees or his patients. He also forbade her from seeking employment in any area related to the medical field and said she was to inform in writing any potential employer of her convictions, Hudock said.
As she was taken away, Urso handed judicial marshals a white plastic shopping bag containing about 20 medications to be sent with her to jail. In the court hallway after the sentencing, Amy Marcus, a former employee of Weiss, said Hudock should have given her a full year in jail. Marcus said she was forced to quit after Lichtenstein verbally abused her shortly before her arrest. "I don't think the court has done justice and I am very disappointed in the Norwalk court system," she said