A woman who reportedly posed as a nurse at Davita Dialysis on South Washington Avenue, in Marshall, pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to the charges of fraudulent use/possession of identifying information and two counts of nursing without a license.
Sentencing has been set for 2:30 p.m., Nov. 20, in the 71st Judicial District Courtroom.
According to her indictment, around March 6, 2017, the defendant, 31-year-old Stephanie Garcia , with intent to harm or defraud another, and without the consent of a (real licensing nurse) Stephanie Garcia, used less than five items of identifying information, specifically a registered nurse license number, by placing it on a job application. The indictment further notes that on or about July 10, 2017, and July 16, 2017, Garcia, also known as Stephanie Halcomb, intentionally or knowingly practiced professional nursing without a license.
The Texas Board of Nursing (BON) revealed its findings of its investigation in its January 2018 newsletter bulletin and warned the public about Garcia along with other reported imposters throughout the state. Garcia, who was hired in May 2016, also served as the Marshall location’s facility administrator.
The case came to the Harrison County District Attorney’s office right before Christmas 2017 when the nursing board notified the DA of the impersonation following an investigation of Garcia. The investigation was prompted by the complaint of Judy Webb, a former patient, whose husband reported Garcia to the board, alleging that Garcia violated Webb’s physician’s orders for dialysis, which caused the patient to have a medical emergency at the site.
The DA’s office subsequently turned the case over to Marshall Police Department, in January 2017, for further criminal investigation.
In his report on the investigation of the case, MPD Sgt. Carlos Pacheco, documented MPD’s involvement in the case from the day Garcia called officers to Davita to remove Anthony Webb from the premises when he became upset about her treatment to his wife, to the day they were notified that the husband had filed a complaint with the nursing board shortly after, questioning Garcia’s credibility.
The officer’s investigation revealed more findings that corroborated the nursing board’s discoveries. Pacheco noted that while going through Garcia’s employment record from Davita, he discovered her claim that she had a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing as a registered nurse from San Diego State University in California and was provided a nursing license.
The board of nursing informed that the license number Garcia used belonged to another Stephanie Garcia, who resides in Abilene. The real practicing nurse responded to the complaint from the BON, confirming that she never practiced outside of Abilene.
The investigating MPD officer further noted that he called and made contact with Sgt. Jack Ross with the department of Veteran Affairs Police Department in San Diego to provide details of the impersonating Garcia’s claims of being previously employed by the VA hospital in San Diego.
Garcia had used the VA as a reference with a job application to Cigna Healthcare and provided a nursing license number.
“(Sgt.) Ross informed me that he could find no record of Garcia being employed by the VA,” Sgt. Pacheco advised. “He also told me that the license number that I gave, which Garcia put in her application, was for a medical equipment tag.”
In addition to that, Pacheo noted that Garcia used the license number of the real licensed vocational nurse with the same name on her At Home Healthcare application.
Court documents show that in her statement that was written in her “consent to release pre-sentencing investigation” report, Garcia accepted full responsibility for her actions, explaining she used a license number that did not belong to her after seeing the opening for a facility administrator at Davita in a job search.
She went into detail on her hiring — from the time she applied for the job, to being interviewed, to searching for nursing credentials to use after hers were requested.
“I applied for the position and was granted an interview,” Garcia wrote. “I had been a Navy Combat Medic, so I had a medical background.”
After making it through the first round of interviews, she said she was flown out to headquarters for a panel interview in which she was offered the job.
Garcia said she was later contacted by the credentialing department, asking for her nursing license.
“I accessed a public system online and typed in my name,” she explained. “I saw a license number with my name in the system, so I provided that number to the credentialing department.”
“I had thought the job was going to be strictly administrative — that was how it was described to me,” she wrote. “I was taken aback when I learned otherwise.
“It never occurred to me that I would be in a position where I would have to use the license,” she added. “I felt uneasy about the whole thing and I was trying to find another job.”
Garcia offered an apology for her actions and to everyone involved.
“I regret my actions, but they have steered my life in a positive direction,” she wrote. “I now cherish the value of family.”
She asked the court, to consider probation. “I have made a very bad decision and ask for leniency and compassion in sentencing,” Garcia wrote.
Fraudulent use of identifying information is a state jail felony with a punishment range of 180 days to two years in prison. A fine up to $10,000 may also be imposed.
Practicing nursing without a license is a Class A misdemeanor with a special punishment range of up to a year in the county jail and/or a $4,000 fine.
Rick Hurlburt has been appointed to serve as special prosecutor in the case. Garcia has retained attorney, Rick Berry, to represent her in the case.