A US doctor was last night informed his identity may have been stolen in what is being described as a "sophisticated" case of identity fraud by a man who allegedly posed as a psychiatrist and worked for Waikato District Health Board.
The qualified psychiatrist was believed to be "blissfully unaware" that a man - who gained medical registration in New Zealand - was allegedly using his identity, including degree certificates and US medical registration confirmation, to practise in New Zealand.
Documents produced by the man to obtain medical registration in New Zealand were faultless, and are believed to be genuine, and referees who vouched for his expertise believed they were providing references for the "real" US doctor whose identity is believed to have been stolen.
It comes after a man, 54, working as a psychiatrist at Waikato DHB appeared in Hamilton District Court on Saturday on a number of charges. He was given name suppression and remanded in custody and is due to appear again in court on Monday.
The man had previously worked with vulnerable patients who had health issues, including mental illness and addiction problems.
NZME News Service understands the US psychiatrist whose identity is believed to have been stolen works at a clinic in Naperville, Illinois. Efforts to contact him were unsuccessful yesterday.
The Medical Council of New Zealand confirmed it had arranged to inform the US doctor of the charges last night. The DHB also confirmed it had been in contact with the doctor, and had given his details to the New Zealand police.
Medical Council chairman Andrew Connolly said the alleged fraudster appeared to have carried out a "sophisticated identity theft", duping the council, the hospital and the US medical authorities, who may have provided genuine documentation believing they were being given to the real doctor.
"Jurisdictions overseas that issued these certificates appear to have done so in the genuine belief they were dealing with a legitimate doctor," he said.
Two of the three referees who vouched for the man to the Medical Council were "shocked" to learn they may have provided a reference for the wrong man, Mr Connolly said.
"All our registration staff go through fraud document training, so we're pretty concerned that this guy got through, assuming what's alleged is borne out. We're very concerned," Mr Connolly said.
The DHB says 20 patients were treated by the alleged fraudster.
"Over half of those have been contacted. In the main they have been pleased to have been contacted," the DHB said. "A number of them have also received follow-up consultation."
Immigration New Zealand said it will wait for the court process to be completed before investigating further, "but liability for deportation may follow". An inspection into the Waikato District Health Board's mental health service is under way.