STAFFORD, Va. (AP) — A judge in Virginia has sentenced a woman to 11 years in prison for pretending to be a psychologist and treating more than 100 patients, most of whom were children.
The prison sentence that Stafford County Circuit Court Judge Charles Sharp handed down Friday to Sharonda Avery, 44, was well above the recommended term under state guidelines, which called for a maximum of two years and three months.
“Your lies and misrepresentations were truly astounding,” the judge told her. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a case in which non-violent acts caused so much damage.”
The Free Lance-Star reports that Avery did not have a criminal record before she was convicted of five counts of obtaining money by false pretenses, two counts of passing forged documents, perjury and practicing psychology without a license.
Police began investigating Avery in October 2018 after receiving complaints about her.
Avery practiced for about three years at the former Pediatric Partners for Attention and Learning in Stafford, an office run by a real doctor.
Avery was accused of prescribing medication for nonexistent conditions and failing to properly diagnose conditions that patients did have. She also testified in court while posing as a medical expert.
Defense attorney Charlotte Hodges said Avery had stopped taking medication that she needed for her own mental health issues before her arrest.
“She cannot erase everything she did, but she is trying to make amends,” Hodges said. “Somebody on medication is one person. Somebody off it is somebody else.”
Prosecutor Greg Holt called Avery a “con artist” who preyed on desperate people.
“Real lives were changed and hurt by her,” Holt said. “She not only stole money, she stole trust.”