New legislation would increase penalties for fake therapists
In an effort to close a loop hole in the legal system, a handful of senators are working on increasing the penalties for people posing as therapists.
The efforts began after a woman wrongfully presented herself as a behavioral analyst in the Norwalk and Weston school districts. According to court documents, Stacy Lore charged about $200,000 to Norwalk and another $100,000 was charged to Weston for services she wasn't providing. Lore is facing three counts of first-degree larceny, second-degree forgery and criminal impersonation. First-degree larceny is a Class B felony with a maximum sentence of 20 years and/or a fine of $15,000; second-degree forgery is a Class D felony with a sentence of one to five years and/or a fine of $5,000; criminal impersonation is a Class B misdemeanor with a sentence of six months and/or a fine of $1,000.
State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25) is one of the legislators working on increasing the penalties for similar cases.
"The issue began with Stacy Lore after the parents became suspicious," Duff said. "The children weren't progressing, they were actually regressing. It was a waste of taxpayer money."
After the Lore case came to light, Duff and others began working on new legislation that would require a specific qualification in order to work with special needs students. Currently, state law didn't require specific qualifications to work with special needs students.
"The problem with Lore outside of the criminal impersonation charge was that there wasn't any legal avenue to pursue with her," Duff said.
If the legislation passes, it would also cover additional licensed professions.
"Basically we're getting caught up with other laws," Duff said. "This has been well received and the Public Health Committee was extremely supportive."
The legislature has until June 8 to pass the law before this year's session ends.
Under the new bill, a person who wrongfully poses as a therapist would be subject to five years in prison and up to a fine of $500 fine for each offense. Anytime the person made contact or consulted with a patient, he or she would be charged with a separate offense.
One of the reasons such legislation was never considered was because no one believed a person would attempt such a crime, Duff said.
"The notion of behavior therapists is a relatively new profession. Who would have thought someone would pose as a fake therapist?"
Even though the schools lost thousands of dollars, the students Lore was responsible for lost valuable instruction that may never be able to be made up.
"People rob banks for money," Duff said. "People shouldn't bilk a school and hurt children at the same time."
Duff said he was unsure if the students who worked with Lore would ever be able to catch up to where they should have been if they were working with a certified therapist.