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AG Nessel's Sentinel Project Leads to Charges Against Unlicensed Nurse

LANSING - An investigation by the Department of Attorney General's Sentinel Project has led to its first criminal case - a felony charge against a nurse for practicing in a nursing home while her license was suspended, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced today. 

The Sentinel Project is an initiative by the Health Care Fraud Division to investigate complaints of resident neglect and abuse in nursing homes. The project's approach involves sending Attorney General investigators and other trained staff to a home where suspected abuse or neglect has occurred to interview witnesses, gather relevant evidence, and speak with residents about possible abuse or neglect. 

Mary Cheatham, 41, was working at Medilodge of Sterling Heights on May 20, 2021, when agents and staff from the Attorney General's Health Care Fraud Division working with the Sentinel Project were conducting an investigation.  

After encountering Cheatham, a registered nurse, agents learned that the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) had summarily suspended her license in early March 2021. Under state statute, practicing a licensed health profession without a license is a four-year felony. 

A criminal complaint against Cheatham was filed in Macomb County's 41A District Court and Cheatham was arrested and arraigned on the charge on Friday. She was granted a $10,000 personal recognizance bond.  

"Our Sentinel Project has made several visits to nursing homes as part of my department's efforts to ensure residents are receiving quality care in a safe environment," Nessel said. "Our team has found the vast majority of facilities visited provide appropriate care, abide by licensing regulations and follow the law while caring for their residents. Protecting Michigan's most vulnerable adults remains a top priority for me and this department." 

A probable cause conference is scheduled before Judge Kimberley Wiegand on March 16. 

The Department of Attorney General's Health Care Fraud Division receives 75% of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $4,846,440 for federal fiscal year 2022. The remaining 25%, totaling $1,615,478, is funded by the State of Michigan. 

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Please note: A criminal charge is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The Department does not provide booking photos.