Ottawa

Alleged nurse impersonator charged by Ottawa police has history of similar crimes

For 30 years, Brigitte Cleroux has impersonated everyone from a school teacher to a former roommate to a registered nurse and left a trail of deception and dishonesty in her wake. Her web of lies has spanned three provinces and two U.S. states.

Police believe there could be more victims

Brigitte Cleroux, 49, allegedly used and fraudulently posed as a registered nurse to get a job at a medical clinic in Ottawa. (Ottawa Police Service)

For 30 years, Brigitte Cleroux has impersonated everyone from a school teacher to a registered nurse, and left a trail of deception and dishonesty in her wake.

Her web of lies has spanned three provinces and two states.

Cleroux, 49, is now living in Gatineau. She was charged last week by Ottawa police, who allege she faked being a nurse at an unnamed medical and dental clinic in Ottawa. 

Detectives announced Wednesday they charged Cleroux with a string of crimes that appear to be the most serious she has faced, including assault with a weapon and criminal negligence causing bodily harm, allegedly for administering medication and injections to patients who had no idea she wasn't certified to do so.

Police say Cleroux used multiple aliases and "assumed the identities of registered nurses that she fraudulently obtained."

Court records tell the tale of a woman who lied repeatedly — to employers, to the government, to police.

Attended nursing school, but wasn't certified 

At one point, according to an Alberta court decision in 2011, Cleroux was in nursing school in Colorado. But she only completed two years of the four-year nursing course and was never certified as a nurse.

In fact, the College of Nurses of Ontario lists Cleroux and her aliases on a web page alerting potential employers of people posing as nurses.

According to the college, Cleroux's name has come up repeatedly in the Ottawa region. She goes by the names Brigitte Marier, Brigitte Fournier, Melanie Cleroux, Melanie Gauthier, Melanie Thompson and Melanie Smith.

It's the second provincial college to issue an alert about the woman.

Criminal convictions date back 30 years 

Her crimes date back to at least 1991, when she was charged with impersonation and forgery in Quebec at just 19 years old, according to court documents. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one month in jail.

In 2002, she was convicted of criminal mischief and property damage in Florida. That state's department of corrections lists 11 aliases that authorities alleged she used and called her an "absconder/fugitive" wanted for a probation felony.

In 2005, she got a nursing job at a hospital in a small Ontario city after stealing and falsifying a legitimate nurse's registration certificate.

In 2006, she was sentenced in Ontario to six months in prison and made to pay a $60,000 fine for working in a hospital without proper credentials or certifications.

Four years later, the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta would send out an alert notifying employers that Cleroux, then going as Brigitte Cleroux Marier, had been charged with impersonating a registered nurse.

At the time, Cleroux was released on bail while she awaited trial. She failed to show up for a court appearance and the court issued a warrant for her arrest citing her unknown whereabouts.

The very next day, three provinces over, police in Ontario would again arrest her for impersonating a nurse.

Forged letters to court

The police and colleges were often tipped off by employers who called to check in on Cleroux's background or credentials.

In a 2011 decision, an Alberta judge called her crimes "offences of dishonesty."

"Some were committed to obtain employment for which she was not qualified. Some were for financial gain."

In that case, Cleroux even submitted "forged letters of reference to the court to influence the sentencing" — one claiming to be from her mother-in-law, the other from her friend.

In the past, Cleroux had admitted to forging a registered nurse certificate to support a job application, giving police fake identification, and impersonating a former roommate with a birth certificate in the roommate's name to get a fake ID.

She also posed as a science teacher in Calgary without any formal education or training. 

Despite stints of "honest employment," where an Alberta judge said she ought to have been "grateful for these chances to redeem herself," Cleroux "used these positions of trust to try to continue her pattern of dishonesty."

From 2015 to 2018, Cleroux pleaded guilty to a host of similar crimes in Quebec. Court records there show that she moved throughout the province and even to Mississauga, Ont. She pleaded guilty to theft, fraud, impersonation, identity theft and forgery.

Ottawa police said Wednesday they believe there may be other clinics and victims involved in this latest matter.

Investigators ask anyone with information about Cleroux or their ongoing investigation to call the Ottawa police's east criminal investigation section tip line at 613-236-1222, extension 5625.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shaamini Yogaretnam

CBC Ottawa reporter

Shaamini Yogaretnam is CBC Ottawa's justice, crime and police reporter. She has spent nearly a decade covering crime in the nation's capital. You can reach her at shaamini.yogaretnam@cbc.ca or 613-220-2486. You can find her on Twitter at @shaaminiwhy

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