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Fake psychologist sent to prison facing multiple lawsuits

March 2, 2021 GMT

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) — A Virginia woman serving an 11-year prison sentence for treating patients while pretending to be a psychologist is now facing multiple civil lawsuits seeking millions of dollars, according to court records.

Sharonda L. Avery, 44, treated more than 100 patients while posing as a doctor at the former Pediatric Partners for Attention and Learning in Stafford, The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg reported Tuesday. Avery was sentenced in October to 46 years in prison with all but 11 years suspended after being convicted of nine offenses.

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The victims of those offenses, or their parents, have filed four civil lawsuits in Stafford Circuit Court seeking damages ranging from just over $1 million to about $252 million.

Joni Johnson, a doctor who led the practice where Avery worked for about three years, and Aetna Health Insurance Co. are among the co-defendants listed in the lawsuits. The lawsuits say Johnson is liable for hiring Avery without verifying her credentials, and the insurance company is cited for not verifying Avery’s credentials before approving medications she prescribed.

The lawsuits say numerous patients, most of them children, suffered as the result of faulty diagnoses and medications that were prescribed for conditions that didn’t exist.