British Columbia

B.C. Women's Hospital allegedly accepted photocopy of altered cheque as only ID for fake nurse

When a serial fraudster with a long history of impersonation applied for a nursing job at B.C. Women’s Hospital, administrators accepted a copy of a cheque that had been altered with Wite-Out as her only identification, new court documents allege.

Court filing in proposed class action also claims no one verified Brigitte Cleroux's references

A composite image shows mug shots and other photos of a white, brunette woman at different ages.
Brigitte Cleroux, 51, has a criminal record that spans three decades, four provinces and two U.S. states. (CBC)

When a serial fraudster with a long history of impersonation applied for a nursing job at B.C. Women's Hospital, administrators accepted a copy of a cheque that had been altered with Wite-Out as her only identification, new court documents allege.

An exhibit filed last week in a proposed class action lawsuit against the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) claims that Brigitte Cleroux was not required to produce government ID when she applied for a job at the Vancouver hospital in June 2020.

"The defendant accepted a photocopy of a personal cheque from Cleroux where she had whited out her name at the top of the cheque and handwritten the name Melanie Smith, as confirmation of Cleroux's identity as Melanie Smith," reads a notice to admit sworn in B.C. Supreme Court on Nov. 24.

The notice is a set of alleged facts that representative plaintiff Miranda Massie has asked PHSA to admit to be true.

It goes on to allege that no one at PHSA took the time to check or verify the references Cleroux had listed in her falsified resumé.

Scott Stanley, the lawyer who represents Massie, told CBC that the health authority has declined to admit to any of the allegations in the notice.

PHSA has not responded to requests for comment.

Massie's proposed class action lawsuit alleges negligence by PHSA for hiring Cleroux and holds the health authority liable for battery and breach of privacy. 

In its response to the original claim, PHSA denies that it should have known Cleroux wasn't a qualified nurse or that her deception should have been discovered with due diligence. It says the health authority was also a victim of fraud and did not authorize any of Cleroux's alleged crimes and misconduct.

Criminal history for impersonation

Cleroux has never held a nursing licence, but over the last two decades, she has been accused or convicted of pretending to be a nurse in Colorado, Ontario, Alberta and B.C. She's also posed as a teacher in Alberta and Quebec.

In all, the 50-year-old from the Ottawa area has amassed at least 67 criminal convictions as an adult.

She is currently facing 17 criminal charges, including allegations of assaulting 10 patients while posing as a perioperative nurse at B.C. Women's Hospital from June 2020 to June 2021.

Cleroux currently sits in an Ontario prison, serving a seven-year sentence for posing as a nurse at two Ottawa clinics in the summer of 2021.

A person's hands are shown in the foreground, adjusting a fluid-filled bag for a patient lying in a hospital bed.
Patients at B.C. Women's Hospital have alleged they were harmed when Cleroux gave them an IV. (Photographee.eu/Shutterstock)

According to parole documents, Cleroux has used more than 20 aliases to commit fraud over the last three decades.

When she was hired at B.C. Women's Hospital, Cleroux was calling herself Melanie Smith, the name of a real nurse who worked at Vancouver General Hospital but was on maternity leave at the time, according to the notice to admit.

Cleroux also provided a registration number, but when hospital administrators searched for it with the College of Nurses and Midwives of B.C., it came back as belonging to another registered nurse, not Melanie Smith, the notice says.

It goes on to allege that within one month of working at the hospital, another nurse had raised concerns "about Cleroux unsafely discharging a patient with low oxygen levels," and an anesthesiologist had complained about her using "unnecessary force" on another patient.

PHSA has already admitted that Cleroux was the subject of a long list of complaints during her time in Vancouver, including "inappropriate" conduct toward coworkers and was briefly suspended without pay for one day in December 2020.

'My IV was not even in my veins'

Along with the notice to admit, a number of patient affidavits were filed last week alleging that PHSA should be liable for the harm Cleroux caused to them.

One woman wrote in her affidavit that Cleroux was responsible for placing an IV in her arm to provide a painkiller during surgery — a process that "was extremely painful and felt as though she was stabbing me with a sharp pencil."

The patient goes on to say that she was in "extreme pain" throughout the surgery as well.

"After the surgery, a post-op nurse checked on me and told me that my IV was not even in my veins; it was stuck in my muscle and therefore not getting the painkiller effectively into my system," the affidavit says.

Another patient, who says she is a pharmacist, writes in her affidavit that Cleroux ignored her concerns about being sensitive to opioids and injected her with a "huge dose" of fentanyl that caused her breathing to slow to a dangerously low rate.

"She kept calling me a 'lightweight,'" the patient alleges.

A third woman's affidavit says that when Cleroux tried to draw blood from her before surgery, Cleroux pricked her with a needle numerous times and "blood was squirting everywhere, and it was very painful and disturbing."

None of the allegations have been proven in court, and the lawsuit has not been approved as a class action.

Cleroux's next appearance in Vancouver provincial court on criminal charges is scheduled for Jan. 11.

Brigitte Cleroux worked as a nurse, a teacher, and more — but she was a serial imposter, without qualifications. The CBC's Bethany Lindsay brings us her documentary The Professional, in which the people who came face to face with Cleroux share their stories and confusion about how this could ever have happened.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is a journalist for CBC News in Vancouver with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

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