Ottawa

Fake nurse sentenced 7 years for impersonation, using needles on patients

Brigitte Cleroux — who for decades has pretended to be a nurse and school teacher in at least three provinces and two U.S. states — has been sentenced to seven years for impersonating a nurse at two health facilities in Ottawa last year.

Ottawa's Brigitte Cleroux has 67 adult convictions in Canada and U.S., court hears

Ottawa police took the unusual step of releasing this photo of Brigitte Cleroux after her arrest in 2021, saying she has used multiple aliases in the past. The 50-year-old was sentenced Friday to seven years. (Ottawa Police Service)

Brigitte Cleroux — who for decades has pretended to be a nurse and school teacher in at least three provinces and two U.S. states — has been sentenced to seven years for impersonating a nurse at two health facilities in Ottawa last year, and for using needles on patients when she was unqualified.

The 50-year-old pleaded guilty in January to seven offences including impersonation, assault with a weapon and assault, and was sentenced Friday by Ontario Court Justice Robert Wadden.

Her crimes stemmed from short stints working at Ottawa's OriginElle fertility clinic and Argyle Associates dental surgery clinic in 2021, where 20 victims she either handled physically or used needles on were identified, Wadden told court. She impersonated a real nurse, B.C.'s Melanie Smith, to gain that employment.

In a victim impact statement, one former patient said going through in-vitro fertilization was stressful enough, and that she needed therapy after finding out she'd been treated by a fraud.

Another fertility clinic patient wrote they felt a "strong sense of betrayal," and a mother of a child attended to by Cleroux described being stressed about the revelation that she wasn't qualified, Wadden told court.

Crown attorney Moiz Karimjee had argued for a sentence of 10 years, while defence lawyer Ronald Guertin sought four to five years.

With credit for the time she has already served in jail — Cleroux has been in custody since her arrest by Ottawa police in August 2021 — the remainder of her sentence works out to five years and eight months in a federal penitentiary, Wadden ruled.

She must also submit to a DNA order and is barred from possessing weapons for 10 years.

"The impersonation of a health-care professional strikes at the core of the trust our society puts in our health-care system," Wadden told court.

Cleroux's actions "caused everyone to doubt the integrity" of that system "and the trust placed in the nursing profession, which is one of the most hard-working and highly regarded professions in this country."

67 adult convictions, more as a youth

Cleroux has a lengthy criminal record in Canada and the U.S., including 67 adult convictions and still others from when she was a youth, Wadden told court.

She was born and raised in Ottawa, had a troubled relationship with her parents, engaged in theft as a young person and moved to the U.S., where she racked up convictions, Wadden said. In Colorado she studied nursing but didn't finish.

Though Cleroux received training in the beauty industry and worked in that field for a time, was trained as a restaurant manager and legally worked in B.C. as an unregulated health-care provider, she chose instead to fraudulently obtain work as a nurse because it paid more, Wadden said.

A court-ordered psychiatric report found that Cleroux suffers from a host of personality disorders and engages in fraud to soothe her feelings. And while Cleroux admitted to what she did, she continued to frame herself as a victim, Wadden told court.

The judge also said the psychiatrist who conducted the assessment was "pessimistic" about Cleroux's prognosis.

Cleroux, with her hair up, a blue surgical mask, a black shirt and white blazer, appeared to cry while speaking with her lawyer after Wadden concluded sentencing. 

In September 2021, when Ottawa police charged Cleroux, they took the unusual step of releasing her photo because she uses aliases and may have worked elsewhere.

Similar charges filed in Vancouver

Nursing regulatory bodies in Alberta, B.C., and Ontario have issued alerts about Cleroux in the past. The College of Nurses of Ontario lists Cleroux and her aliases on a web page alerting potential employers to people posing as nurses.

According to the college, Cleroux's aliases in the Ottawa region have included Brigitte Marier, Brigitte Fournier, Melanie Cleroux, Melanie Gauthier, Melanie Thompson and Melanie Smith.

Nearly three months after Ottawa police filed charges against Cleroux, Vancouver police announced she was facing charges there for allegedly posing as a nurse at B.C. Women's Hospital for a year.

Her next appearance on charges filed in Vancouver is set for May, according to courthouse records.

With files from Shaamini Yogaretnam

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