Zholia Alemi, the fake psychiatrist registered with the GMC, is jailed for fraud and theft
The 2002 Hollywood hit, Catch Me If You Can, saw Leonardo di Caprio portray the serial imposter Frank Abagnale Jr, a man who before his 19th birthday had forged millions of dollars in cheques by giving his own convincing portrayals of a Pan Am pilot, a physician and a lawyer. Jurors at Carlisle Crown Court might have been forgiven for seeing parallels in the case of Zholia Alemi who, in October of this year, was convicted and jailed for fraud and theft after taking advantage of a vulnerable patient.
Remarkably, Alemi had been registered with the General Medical Council since 1995, and was employed as a consultant psychiatrist, but she did not have a medical degree. On application to the GMC she had claimed to have a medical degree from the University of Auckland. However, news reports indicate that she had not made it beyond the first year of the degree.
The GMC has been quick to point out that there have been significant changes in the registration process since 1995, including the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board exam. Whilst those changes should offer genuine reassurance, many will ask how this lady had managed to dupe colleagues and patients for 23 years, ultimately obtaining a job as a consultant in a specialist field.
Frank Abagnale Jr’s life took a surprising turn. He went on to work as a security consultant, penning an autobiography and inspiring a movie, a Broadway musical and TV series. The immediate future for Ms Alemi is more predictable. She was jailed for five years.
However, the true toll of her deception will be difficult to quantify as patients treated by her, and their families, begin to question whether their circumstances might be different had Ms Alemi never been registered to practise as a doctor in the UK.
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