A Billings woman suspected of impersonating a nurse at a local hospital is facing federal bank and wire fraud charges.
Appearing for arraignment Tuesday morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby, defendant Angela Corson Smith, 32, was charged with a series of crimes accusing her of defrauding banks and individuals of thousands of dollars by lying about her health, family and work.
Smith pleaded not guilty to an eight-count indictment charging her with bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, false statements to a bank and wire fraud.
Officers with the federal Secret Service and the Billings Police Department arrested Smith at about 9:30 a.m. at her parents' home in Billings, said Police Chief Rich St. John.
Smith was arraigned later Tuesday morning. Ostby ordered her detained, set a detention hearing for Thursday and appointed Assistant Federal Defender Dave Merchant to represent her.
If convicted, Smith faces a maximum of 30 years imprisonment and a possible $1 million fine on the bank fraud and false statement charges.
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A Billings Police Department investigation began after The Billings Gazette reported in late April that St. Vincent Healthcare had sent employees a memo warning that a woman had been posing as a nurse at Billings Clinic.
The memo, which identified the woman as Smith, said she had claimed at various times to be a physician assistant student, a nurse practitioner student, a neonatal intensive care unit nurse and the director of nursing.
St. John said earlier the department's probe was to determine whether a crime occurred and, if so, who would prosecute.
Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito said Tuesday that an investigation is continuing into possible state charges stemming from more recent events and is not related to the federal fraud case.
Twito said he was not aware of the federal investigation until his office got involved after reports of a nurse impostor.
The Secret Service conducts criminal investigations into a number of financial crimes, including counterfeiting schemes, frauds and identity thefts.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Fehr, who is prosecuting Smith, declined to comment on the case. The indictment was filed on June 20 and unsealed with Smith's arraignment.
Smith declined earlier to comment. Smith also goes by the names Angela Hanson and Angela Smith, the memo said.
The indictment accuses Smith of three schemes.
In the bank fraud scheme, Smith is accused of defrauding Altana Federal Credit Union of $27,300 by getting a home equity loan on a residence owned by her husband, identified as B.S., without his permission. The money was for her personal use, the indictment said.
Smith applied for the home equity loan on Oct. 23, 2009, by forging a power of attorney representing she had her husband's authority to get the loan, the indictment said. Smith also forged her husband's signature on the loan documents.
About three years later, on Nov. 5, 2012, Altana contacted Smith about delinquent loan payments. Smith lied and told the credit union that her daughter had died the day before of leukemia and that she would be unable to make the payments because of medical and funeral expenses related to her daughter's death, causing Altana to defer four loan payments, indictment said.
Smith's daughter was not suffering from leukemia and didn't die, the indictment noted.
In a wire fraud scheme that ran from January 2011 to November 2012, Smith is accused of defrauding a man identified as J.D.K. of at least $40,500 by sending him emails saying she needed money because she was facing a life-threatening illness and was in the middle of a divorce.
Smith initially told J.D.K. she needed $7,500 because someone had written her a bad check. She promised to repay the loan, the indictment said. Instead of repayment, Smith asked for another $33,000, saying she was sick and divorcing.
J.D.K. loaned her the money based on Smith's statements that she was "gravely ill and in the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio for medical treatments for a rare virus that could kill her," the indictment said.
Smith sent J.D.K. photographs of herself in a hospital bed, represented that she was partially paralyzed and using a feeding tube and that she had been flown by a medical plane to Denver and later to Cleveland for treatment, the indictment said.
In addition, Smith continued asking for and received loans from J.D.K., saying she needed help with medical and divorce expenses. J.D.K. continued supporting Smith financially based on her statements as well as "her romantic expressions" toward him, the indictment said.
To continue the scheme, Smith repeatedly told J.D.K. in voice messages, emails and texts that she would repay the money with proceeds from her medical billing company, her work as a registered nurse and a home equity loan if necessary.
Smith, the indictment continued, never had a medical billing business, was never a registered nurse and had already taken out a home equity loan.
In a third scheme, which ran from September 2010 to January 2013, Smith received about $57,500 from investors in Yellowstone County by saying she was starting a business, called Medical Billing Advocates of Montana, to work with doctors, patients and insurance companies to resolve insurance billing problems. She promised a quick return on investments and profit sharing in some cases, the indictment said.
The business never had an office or a client and used Smith's home address for its mailing address, the indictment said.
Smith opened a bank account at US Bank in the name of the business and deposited investors' checks into that account and into her personal account at the bank. The indictment said Smith used the money for personal expenses unrelated to the alleged business venture.
When investors asked for the promised payments, Smith responded that she was "gravely ill, that her daughter was gravely ill and that she was experiencing marital difficulties," the indictment said. She also wrote investors bad checks "in an attempt to placate" them, the indictment said.