They are amongst the most trusted and respected members of society. The relationship between doctor and patient is an ancient, almost sacred bond, and the knowledge that a medical professional possesses comes from years of study and experience on the job. Sadly, and perhaps inevitably, though, some phony individuals have seen fit to abuse this trust and pass themselves off as the genuine article through the use of fraudulent medical degrees.
The market for fake degrees is a competitive one; and given the financial and social rewards that possessing such a bogus certificate can lead to – plus the time and expense it takes to become a medical doctor – it is hardly surprising that there are many willing customers eager to use deception to their advantage. Of course, fake qualifications are no substitute for skill, experience and authentic training, as the following crooks learned to their cost… Here, then, are ten medical doctors who held fake degrees.
10. Vinisha Sharma
Bogus dentist Vinisha Sharma shocked a British court in 2010 when she admitted to working and performing minor surgery in a number of hospitals. In 2000, she was granted membership of the General Dental Council through the use of a degree she claimed to have been awarded by the Sri Guru Ram Das institute in India. However, there is no record of her graduating from the institute and she failed her dentistry exams at King College, London. Her deception was only uncovered when a consultant raised doubts about her competence and qualifications. Sharma reputedly earned £230,000 ($368,100) over a nine year period. She was jailed for three years in 2011.
9. Ankur Jain
In 2007, an Indian television news channel set out to expose some of the doctors working with fake degrees who had remained undetected by the Medical Council of India. Ankur Jain was one such individual. Jain claimed to have been awarded an MD degree from Kasturba Medical College in Mangalore; however, records show that he bought a fake degree from the Russian State Medical University in 2001. He was arrested for fraud in 2006 but was soon out on bail. Alarmingly, he was reported to be working as a skin specialist in Delhi even after his arrest.
8. Golam Kibria
A fake doctor who practiced for years as a medical professional was arrested in August 2011, having already been busted once before. Golam Kibria, a Bangladeshi national, was jailed for two years and fined for the fraudulent activity. After working for just one year in at a medicine shop, Kibria began practicing as a doctor in 1996. In 2003, he bought fake medical qualifications from Kolkata, India. Following this, he bought a business and set himself up as a physician in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. The court found that Kibria’s MD certificate was issued in January 2003, but he only visited India in February of that year – scant time for all the study that would have been required! All of his other documents were found to be fakes, as well.
7. Russell Oakes
A British man who posed as a doctor and vet was jailed for two years in 2010 for fraud by false representation, deception, cruelty to animals and attempting to pervert the course of justice. Russell Oakes, whose only formal training was as an osteopath, paid $480 to a New Zealand-based internet company that provides “custom-designed fake diplomas and degrees.” Police estimated that Oakes made up to £50,000 ($80,000) from the con, at the expense of private patients. Oakes made dangerous mistakes, among them giving an elderly cancer patient a false cholesterol result and leaving a five-year-boy seriously ill after wrongly recommending that he be put on a gluten-free diet. His deception was only discovered when a pony’s castration operation went badly wrong and a genuine veterinary surgeon had to be called in to save the animal’s life.
6. Pravesh Raj
A doctor calling himself “Captain Gautam” was revealed as a fake by the same Indian television news company that exposed Ankur Jain (entry 9) in 2007. Gautam’s true identity was revealed as Pravesh Raj – who in 2000 obtained a fake degree from Moscow’s Sechenov Medical Academy. Amazingly, Raj was still found to be working as a doctor even after the Medical Council of India filed a police complaint against him in 2004. The police never formally registered a case against him and Raj went on treating patients at the Railway Hospital in Yamunanagar.
5. Mohammed Imdad Alam
Mohammed Imdad Alam, a medical student of Xaviers International University in Goa, was arrested in 2010 after he attempted to use a fraudulent degree to gain admittance onto the Delhi Medical Council. The Council discovered that Alam’s registration certificate, obtained from Bihar Medical Council, had been copied from those of another doctor. Even more worryingly, they also found that his place of study was awarding medical degrees without covering essential subjects such as surgery, pharmacology, microbiology, the eyes and forensic medicine. The registrar of the Council confirmed this, stating: “The university was not even listed as one of the institutes eligible for awarding an MBBS degree.”
Amongst the most serious of all the cases on this list is that of Masood-ur-Rehman, also known as “Dr General,” who in May 2011 was accused of duping people into paying him the Indian rupee equivalent of thousands of dollars for fake cancer treatment. Three of the so-called doctor’s patients died, allegedly shortly after the course of prescribed “medicine” was started. The Karachi-based Rehman was accused of causing the deaths through malpractice. During interrogation procedures, police found fraudulent degrees in Rehman’s possession.
3. Christian Eberhard
Christian Eberhard, a former banker who was said to be “obsessed” with the idea of becoming a doctor, participated in 190 operations – including five organ transplants – at the University Clinic of Erlangen. Claiming to have studied medicine at Oxford University in England, Eberhard downloaded fake degree forms from the internet and wrote himself glowing references from doctors that didn’t even exist. Incredibly, despite some obvious mistakes in the documentation, such as the claim that he attended a university in “Franlfurt,” Eberhard went undiscovered for over two years. Described as a “high-grade pathological liar,” he was sent to prison for three years in 2008 (and a further six months was added to his sentence after the prosecution appealed).
2. The Bergers
Sometimes, instead of just one sham doctor, three are exposed at once. That was the case in 1984, when a New York City-wide crackdown on fraudulent medical degrees was undertaken. Jenny Berger Roberge, a psychiatry resident at Cabrini Medical Center, and her brothers David Berger and Capt. Abraham Berger – a doctor at an army facility – all claimed to have medical degrees from the Universidad Central del Este in the Dominican Republic. However, through their attorney the Dominican university strongly denied this and insisted the Bergers had “forged the diplomas.” All three were suspended from practicing medicine.
1. John R. Brinkley
John R. Brinkley is a notorious name in the history of medicine. The infamous “goat-gland doctor” – so-called because he experimented with implanting goat glands into humans as a way to cure male impotence – was not a real doctor at all. Brinkley’s career as a quack generated him millions of dollars and allowed him to lead a lavish lifestyle, but also eventually brought him poverty due to the countless lawsuits against him on grounds of malpractice, wrongful death and fraud. And it all began with a $500 certificate bought from a diploma. This document allowed him to practice fraudulently, leading to wealth, fame and political power. However, from his early days of injecting patients with colored water for $25 a shot, through to his eventual bankruptcy in 1941, Brinkley was a charlatan to the core. Fakes frequently get found out in the end, and Brinkley’s story remains testament to this.