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Woman impersonated her wife to deceive online therapy patients for years, authorities say

The scheme was uncovered when one of the patients realized she was talking to a different person in her therapy sessions after the woman died.
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Posted at 2:54 PM, Jul 02, 2024

A social worker and her wife "coordinated" an online therapy scheme that deceived an unknown number of patients across the country for nearly two years until the wife died, state health department records revealed.

An investigative report from the Florida Department of Health that was first published by CBS News accused Peggy Randolph and her late wife of defrauding patients on the telehealth platform Brightside Health.

Randolph, a social worker licensed in Florida and Tennessee, denied knowing about the scheme and voluntarily surrendered her licenses in both states, authorities said.

A settlement agreement from the Tennessee Department of Health said the late wife used Randolph’s Brightside login credentials to pretend to be her in online therapy sessions while Randolph was treating patients in person.

The scheme was uncovered when one of the patients realized she was talking to a different person in her therapy sessions after Randolph’s wife — identified in her obituary as Tammy Heath-Randolph — passed away last year.

The report from Florida said a patient provided photographic evidence that showed her speaking to Heath-Randolph instead of Randolph during one of her scheduled sessions. Heath-Randolph was not licensed or trained to provide counseling services, the Tennessee agreement said.

Randolph reportedly acknowledged it was her late wife in the patient’s photo, but claimed Heath-Randolph’s “uncontrolled bipolar condition” may have led her to see some of Randolph’s patients behind her back, according to the Florida report.

Brightside, a nationwide online psychiatry service based in San Francisco, internally investigated the fraud claims and found Heath-Randolph was seeing all of Randolph’s online patients “for a long time,” authorities in Florida said.

The Florida and Tennessee Departments of Health said the scheme was a “coordinated effort” by the couple to defraud patients, and Randolph received payments for the unlicensed, impersonation sessions performed by her late wife.

The remaining concern is that it is unclear just how many patients were affected by the scheme.

In a statement provided to Scripps News, Brightside Health said Randolph's contract was terminated and she was reported to state licensing authorities as soon as they learned of the allegations. The company added that “potentially impacted patients” were notified and refunded — though it didn't say the total number of patients that were involved.

"We’re extremely disappointed that a single provider was willing to violate the trust that Brightside and, most importantly, her patients had placed in her, as trust is the foundation of the patient and provider relationship in both telehealth and in-person care," Brightside said. "We take our patient experience seriously and hold ourselves to a high ethical code of conduct."

A spokesperson with the Florida Department of Health reportedly told CBS News a full investigation was not conducted since Randolph voluntarily surrendered her license.