"Unhinged" Fake Doctor Fooled Hospitals for 22 Years and Earned $1 Million Dollars

Zholia Alemi defrauded patients but was found out and faces a long jail term.

A British woman faked her credentials and worked for more than two decades as a psychiatrist in the United Kingdom despite warning signs such as sleeping in her car, exhibiting mood swings, and urging electroshock therapy for at least one patient. Zholia Alemi was convicted of 13 counts of fraud, three of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception, two of forgery, and two of using a false instrument in connection with what a British judge called her "wicked deception." 

Alemi, who lived in the northern English town of Burnley, reportedly worked as a psychiatrist across the U.K. and used her position to earn up to £1.3 million ($1.6 million) in wages from the National Health Service while also defrauding patients of hundreds of thousands of pounds.  She will be sentenced on February 28, at which time Judge Hilary Manley said Alemi faces a jail term "of some substantial length."  Claire Wilkinson, 49, who worked for Alemi, was suspicious about her and raised red flags that were ignored, she told The Times UK.  Here's what you need to know about Zholia Alemi.

Alemi Got Away With It for 22 Years

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Alemi claimed to have a degree from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, which she reportedly forged and sent to the General Medical Council to register to practice in 1995.  The council suspended her license in 2017 after an investigation by the News and Star, a newspaper in Carlisle in northern England. If not for that report, Alemi might still practice today, The Times said.  Manley, the judge, wanted to know "how it was this defendant was able to practice as long as she was, in so many positions."  The council apologized for allowing Alemi to practice and acknowledged that its handling of her application was "inadequate."

Alemi Slept in Her Car

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"She would come into work having slept in her car with her clothes on back to front," The Times reported.  Alemi also didn't know how to write prescriptions, Wilkinson said: "She was unhinged."

She Was Subject to Mood Swings

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"At times, she was the 'life and soul' of the hospital, but at others would be found sobbing in her office," The Times reported. "When colleagues went to comfort her, she would bat them away screaming: 'You don't know how it is.'"  Alemi once considered electroshock therapy for a woman with autism after Alemi "wasn't able to get through to" her, Wilkinson said.

She Stole From a Patient

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When Alemi was found out, "she had amassed assets of £380,000 ($457,000), including a champagne collection and a red Lotus sports car," The Times reported.  Alemi was previously jailed for five years in connection with the forgery of an 84-year-old patient's will to give Alemi a house and £300,000 ($361,000) as an inheritance.

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At Least One Person Thought She Provided Good Care

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Incredibly, at least one expert said Alemi provided "very reasonable" care to a man with a history of autism, epilepsy and learning difficulties, the Daily Mail reported.  Alemi treated Darren King, 31, before his 2017 death but did not contribute to it, said Dr. Jonathan Bird, a psychiatrist and expert witness at an inquest in Suffolk Coroner's Court in 2020.  King drowned in a bathtub after an epileptic fit, according to testimony at the inquest.   "I felt that Ms. Alemi's management and treatment of Mr. King was very reasonable," Bird said. "She seemed to be concerned about things which she should have been concerned about — his mental health, epilepsy and capacity."

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