Sounds exactly like Lissa Daly!
(STAMFORD, CT) Fabricated doctors. Illegal medical procedures. Rerouted cell phone calls. Phony text messages.
Police say they have never dealt with a case quite like it.
For members of the Stamford Police Department's Special Victims Unit, the case began in June, when Deborah, a 39-year-old Stamford resident who did not want her last name used to protect her family, told police she suspected her friend of stalking her, an arrest affidavit states.
Deborah's friend, Jennifer Mardi, 36, was a trained emergency response technician who worked a short stint as a paramedic with Stamford Emergency Medical Services that ended in November 2007.
Police say Mardi wrapped up Deborah in a fictional world in which Mardi used e-mails and text messages to pose as a man who was a friend of both women. Mardi manufactured a medical drama involving the man, creating 14 fictional characters -- some with their own cell phones and e-mail addresses, all tended by Mardi -- to keep the story going, police said.
One of the fictional characters was a doctor in whom Deborah confided her medical problems, police said. From February 2007 to April 2008, on advice from the fictional doctor, Mardi administered fluids and drew blood from Deborah 38 times, according to police, an interview with Deborah and an arrest affidavit.
Mardi began the charade to keep in close contact with Deborah, police said.
After a six-month investigation, police arrested Mardi on Dec. 5, charging her with 38 counts of unlawful use of paramedicine, 38 counts of third-degree assault and 38 counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, all related to the medical procedures. They also charged her with practicing medicine without a license and third-degree larceny, which are felonies.
"This is not something that comes up a lot, if at all during one's career," said Sgt. Gary Perna, a superviser in the Special Victims Unit who has been a police officer for 20 years. "We deal with a lot of criminal investigations, but nothing like this."
When Deborah went to the police station to file her statement, officers told her to type up the timeline of events. It took Deborah two to three weeks to complete a 10-page statement detailing the 20-month relationship, said Officer Heather Franc, an investigator.
It was a confusing case that challenged police to identify criminal actions, Franc said.
Mardi replaced their mutual friend's cell phone number with her own in Deborah's cell phone, then began sending text messages to Deborah as if she, Mardi, were the friend, police said.
Mardi convinced Deborah their friend was seriously ill with a severe calcium deficiency and couldn't speak, so text messages and e-mails were the only means of communication, police said.
Police said Mardi introduced Deborah to a team of doctors, nurses, therapists and priests who were treating their "sick" friend. Not one was a real person. They all contacted Deborah through texts or e-mails; Deborah never spoke to any of them, police said.
"You kind of lose sight of what was real and what wasn't," Deborah said. "She consumed my entire days and nights with all this -- at work, text messages and e-mails, and on the computer to all hours of the night thinking someone is sick."
Mardi did not return a message left with someone who answered her cell phone. It is unknown whether she has hired a lawyer.
Deborah told police her friendship with Mardi began in 2005 at the pool outside her parents' condominium complex. The friendship quickly turned all-consuming, Deborah told police.
Deborah asked for more space and time apart from Mardi. But Mardi would find ways to be near Deborah's family by coaching her children's softball and basketball teams.
According to the arrest affidavit, the story line began after a Halloween party in October 2006, which their friend did not attend because he felt sick. Mardi told Deborah she had driven the friend to the emergency room and that he was violently ill.
Mardi became the liaison between Deborah and the man, who later told police he knew nothing of the Halloween party and was never speechless and bedridden in an out-of-state hospital.
Deborah began texting her friend for medical updates, but the messages went to Mardi, who used her experience as a paramedic and information from the Internet to pose as medical professionals.
Deborah became so concerned with the well-being of her friend that she began cooking food for him and bought him more than $1,000 worth of gifts, including clothes, blankets, video games, pornography and an mp3 player, the affidavit states.
The "sick" friend sent flowers to Deborah's office to show his appreciation, the affidavit states.
Deborah told police she befriended a doctor who was treating her "sick" friend. She told the fictional "Dr. Shorty" about her medical ailments and he diagnosed her by e-mail, saying she was dehydrated and needed fluids.
"Dr. Shorty" arranged to have Mardi deliver Deborah's medical records to him and had Mardi draw blood from Deborah, administer intravenous drips and inject vitamins, the affidavit states.
"I know she's a medic and I know it's her job," Deborah said of Mardi, who also was a licensed paramedic in New York. "I didn't feel like I was in danger at any point. It was basically a way to be with me and care for me. It was odd. It was another way for her to be close."
The ruse appears to have unraveled in June, when Deborah jumped into Mardi's car after the weather turned bad during her child's softball game. Sitting in the car, Deborah sent a text message to their "sick" friend's cell phone and heard a buzzing sound. She looked around the car and found a phone in a door compartment. The text message she had just sent appeared on the phone she found, the arrest affidavit states. She sent another text message, and it appeared on the phone again.
Deborah told police that she suspected Mardi of stalking her. Mardi later told police she paid someone to program her cell phone to intercept text messages, the affidavit states. Eventually Mardi told police she created the fictional world using new cell phones and e-mail accounts.
Deborah told police in August that Mardi's boyfriend had revealed the schemes to her, the affidavit states.
Deborah said she does not sympathize with her former friend -- she is only relieved that Mardi can no longer preoccupy her family with lies.
Mardi is slated to appear Dec. 22 in state Superior Court in Stamford. She was released on a $10,000 bond.