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Woman Accused of Treating Patients Without License

A young victim tells NBC 7 Investigates, the suspect marked the “wrong knee” for his operation

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    A North County woman is accused of posing as a medical professional, working with students at the Army Navy Academy in Carlsbad. NBC 7 Investigates' Mari Payton reports. (Published Thursday, March 19, 2015)

    A North County woman is accused of posing as a medical professional, working with students at the Army Navy Academy in Carlsbad.

    In September 2013, the Medical Board of California received an anonymous complaint about Suzanne Suarez. Investigators stated in a criminal complaint that Suarez falsely represented herself as a Physician's Assistant, even though she had never been certified by the state.

    Nash Hartdegen, 18, a student at the Army Navy Academy, injured his left knee at wrestling practice.

    “I happened to tear my knee entire knee out. Basically, you know, ACL, MCL, Meniscus, BCL…everything,” he explained.

    Upon his school's recommendation, Hartdegen went to Carlsbad Orthopedic Group, where he was examined by Suarez. He thought she was a nurse or physician's assistant.

    She was wearing what he described as a "white doctor coat.”

    “She seemed very professional. She did all the paperwork for my leg,” Hartdegen recounted.

    Dr. Jon Pembroke Kelly also examined his knee and told Hartdegen to come back a few days later for an operation.

    When Hartdegen returned, his mother noticed a huge mistake in her son’s paperwork.

    “They had marked that everything was on my right knee. So they were about to conduct surgery on the wrong leg,” he said.

    They notified the staff and Dr. Kelly successfully operated on the correct knee.

    Hartdegen said Suarez also wrote him prescriptions for strong painkillers.

    “I don't know how she did that without a license or without credentials or anything,” he said.

    Besides Hartdegen, four other Army Navy students believe they were misled.
    According to the complaint, one student said Suarez attended the school's varsity football games as the team's physician.

    After injuring his hand during a game, the student said Suarez examined him and told him he had a "pretty bad sprain" and to keep playing, but X-rays later showed he had 10 broken bones in his hand.

    The Army and Navy Academy's spokesperson sent NBC 7 a statement stating that the school "is not a party to any litigation concerning Dr. Jon Kelly and/or his staff, we have no details and are unable to comment further."

    Dr.Kelly is also charged with conspiring with Suarez.
    Dr. Kelly told investigators he thought she was a licensed physician's assistant and when he discovered she wasn't, he fired her.

    Suarez and Dr. Kelly pleaded “not guilty” to the charges. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 19.