Fake nurse released from jail, served 15 days for unrelated charges
A woman who posed as a nurse and put lives at risk was released from the Jefferson County Jail Saturday morning. Misty Dawn Bacon turned herself into Jefferson County authorities on January 31, 2020, to begin serving a 15 day sentence for unrelated charges.
On January 2, Misty Dawn Bacon pleaded guilty to driving on a suspended license and violating probation, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. The traffic charge was originally filed in August of 2018, but when Bacon failed to appear in court, she was charged with violation of probation in May 2019, a JCSO spokesperson said.
Bacon was scheduled to be released on February 15.
On December 12, 2019, Bacon signed a federal plea agreement admitting to wire fraud, health care fraud and using another person's identification to commit federal crimes.
WVLT News reporter Robert Grant was at the court appearance, where Bacon appeared shaky and quiet.
Her sentencing was scheduled for April 3, 2020. Bacon faces up to 45 years in federal prison, fines of up to $750,000 and restitution that could go up to $750,000.
As part of the agreement, Misty Dawn Bacon, a convicted felon, admitted to providing fake information so that she could obtain nursing jobs.
Between 2012 and 2018, Bacon worked for eight different healthcare providers. While posing as a nurse, she submitted several false entries in patients' medical records. She also submitted fake claims to healthcare benefit programs. Upon learning she was not a real registered nurse, two of her former employers voluntarily repaid benefit programs a combined amount of more than $500,000 for those fake claims.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said it is not taking this case lightly.
“Our office will bring the full measure of the law against those who attempt to take this sort of dangerous and unlawful advantage of persons needing appropriate medical treatment from duly licensed health care professionals," said United States Attorney J. Douglas Overbey in a Justice Department press release.
Misty Dawn Bacon agreed to plead guilty to the charges, more than three months after WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara aired an investigation into potential fraud.
The plea agreement said Misty Dawn Bacon committed federal wire fraud by pretending to be a licensed registered nurse in Tennessee and used partial names and licenses of other people without their permission.
"To bolster her misrepresentations, defendant obtained the names and license numbers of real registered nurses who had the same or similar partial names as the defendant. Defendant would then use these nurses' partial names and their Tennessee registered-nurse license numbers to seek and apply for employment that required a registered-nurse license," the plea agreement read.
Registered nurse Misty Dawn Vennett outlined those accusations in WVLT's investigation. She told Hara that Bacon stole her nursing license number to obtain jobs providing health care at various businesses in East Tennessee.
According to the plea agreement, Bacon was employed at the following health care companies as a health care provider:
- Premier Support Services, d/b/a Interim Home Healthcare and Interim Health Care of East Tennessee
- Jefferson Operator, LLC d/b/a Jefferson City Health and Rehabilitation Center
- Hillcrest Healthcare Communities, Inc. d/b/a Grace Healthcare and d/b/a Beverly Park Place
- Dr. Harry A. Zain d/b/a Five Rivers OBGYN
- Camellia Home Health of East Tennessee d/b/a Camellia Home Health; Almost Family, Inc. d/b/a Suncrest Home Health
- Life Care Centers of America d/b/a Life Care of Jefferson City; and Amedisys Holding, LLC.
"None of the health care providers would have paid anything to, or on account of, the defendant, if they had known that defendant was not a registered nurse. They never would have hired her," the plea agreement read.
During her reporting on the case, WVLT News Anchor Amanda Hara found and interviewed an alleged victim of Bacon's, Clyde Harless. After Hara's investigation aired, investigators contacted and interviewed Harless, who's account was outlined in the plea agreement.
After the news of the plea agreement broke, Harless spoke to WVLT News on Dec 4. Reporter Robert Grant asked if the agreement was a relief.
"Knowing she won't be out here doing this for a little while? Yes," Clyde Harless said. Lois Harless added, "She's not going to kill somebody for awhile anyhow."
But the couple looks to create stricter laws on the books so something like this can't happen again.
"I want her to answer for what she did. But I want to see stricter laws," Clyde said.
Clyde and Lois originally told WVLT News that Bacon was working for Interim Healthcare when she showed up at his Morristown home in April of 2013 to give him insulin through his food bag. Clyde said he remembered her, "coming in, putting the food bag on me, and leaving. I remember getting tired, and I sorta went out."
"He was drooling, he couldn’t hold his head up, he couldn’t sit up or nothing," his wife Lois recalled.
Clyde was taken to the now-closed Lakeway Regional Hospital that same day. Hospital records from that visit show he was admitted because of an overuse of insulin.
The plea agreement also stated Bacon tried to defraud health care benefit programs, that, despite her claims, she never obtained a nursing degree from Walters State Community College, Carson Newman University or any other college or university in Tennessee or elsewhere.
Bacon never graduated from a registered nurse pre-licensure program approved by the Tennessee Board of Nursing, according to the plea agreement.
"Defendant lacked the education, training, passing scores, and character requirements to be licensed as a registered nurse in the state of Tennessee, and she never was," the plea agreement read.
How did the scheme work? Federal documents showed Bacon told investigators that, "She did a random search on the Department of Health website with her first and middle name. The search pulled up the name of a victim nurse that had a current Tennessee license
to be a registered nurse....Defendant would then use these nurses' partial names and their Tennessee registered-nurse license numbers to seek and apply for employment that required a registered-nurse license. When questioned about why the name associated with the registered-nurse license was different from defendant's identification documents, defendant usually would tell potential employers that she had changed her name by marriage or provide some other false reason for why her last name did not match the name on the nursing license she was using."
Bacon was accused of using partial names and Tennessee registered-nurse license numbers of two registered nurses, including information belonging to Misty Dawn Venett, who shared her story in WVLT's original investigations.
Between September 2012 and November 2018, the plea agreement stated Bacon "worked as a purported registered nurse in diverse medical settings, including nursing homes, rehabilitation and assisted living facilities, a doctor's office, and as an in-home care nurse for shut-in patients...Once the health care providers hired defendant, she received professional access to patients, administered invasive physical care and medications to patients, and received access to patients' sensitive, private, and confidential medical records."
Bacon risked seriously hurting or even killing patients, according to court documents, "She began rendering actual medical care to patients, began dispensing medications to patients, and obtained invasive access to patients. Defendant created a risk of serious bodily injury and, in some circumstances, even death to patients--often suffering or recovering from serious medical conditions."
Various companies that Bacon worked for told investigators they reimbursed health benefit programs more than $500,000 collectively for services that were not provided by a registered nurse.
According to investigators, Bacon was convicted of federal theft or embezzlement by a bank employee in 2003.
A sentence will be determined by the court after it receives a report from the United States Probation Office, the plea agreement read.
The punishment for wire fraud is up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000, or both. The punishment for health care fraud carries up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 or both. The punishment for using another person's means of identification with intent to commit Federal offenses and state felonies is imprisonment of not more than fifteen years, a fine of not more than $250,000 or both.
Court documents show Bacon has used a number of aliases, including: Misti Hurst-Holloway, Misti A. Hollaway, Misty Dawn Laton, Misty Hodges, Misty Dawn Bacon, Misty Dawn Hollaway-Venett, Misty Venett Bacon, Misty Dawn Hurst, and Misty Dawn Hodges.