FREDERICKSBURG — A Stafford County man and his nonprofit organization have filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit in connection with the case of a woman accused of posing as a psychologist to treat patients.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Stafford Circuit Court on behalf of Vernon Green Jr. and G3 Community Services, is centered on allegations involving 42-year-old Sharonda L. Avery, who is facing 13 criminal charges in Stafford that include practicing psychology without a license and under false pretenses. Authorities allege that Avery treated more than 100 patients and made diagnoses while having none of the degrees she claimed to have.
Green, who is being represented by Northern Virginia attorney Jack White, said he was a patient of Avery’s for about a year. He is also the founder of G3 Community Services, a Stafford-based organization that the lawsuit states provides cybersecurity and information technology, as well as other services. Green hired Avery as the executive director of the organization in June 2017.
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are Aetna, Dr. Joni Johnson, Pediatric Partners for Attention and Learning and Mary Ann Byrne. Johnson and Byrne were connected with Pediatric Partners, which employed Avery as a doctor. Aetna, the health care insurance provider, was cited for not verifying Avery’s claim to be a psychologist.
According to the 23-page lawsuit, Green is a retired Army veteran who sought treatment from Johnson in early 2016 for service-related post traumatic stress disorder. Johnson referred him to Avery, a member of her practice who was said to be a licensed psychologist with multiple degrees, including two doctorates.
The lawsuit claims that Avery treated Green for nearly a year and prescribed medication. The suit claims the prescriptions were signed off on by Byrne and billed to Aetna, which listed Pediatric Partners as an in-network provider.
“Mr. Green reasonably believed that he was receiving competent medical treatment and care for his PTSD and anxiety,” the lawsuit states.
After discontinuing his treatment with Avery, Green hired Avery to run G3 Community Services. She was fired from that position on March 26 of last year, after which it was alleged that she had made more than $13,000 in unauthorized purchases with G3CS funds. The purchases included payments for personal car insurance, cable bills, hotel rooms, jewelry and cash withdrawals.
The purchases were reported to the Stafford Sheriff’s Office. That investigation led to the criminal charges Avery now faces and the lawsuit’s claim that Avery “is not and has never been a licensed, accredited health care provider.”
The lawsuit makes numerous claims for compensatory and punitive damages, including several for $350,000 and at least one for $750,000. It contends that both Green and his company have suffered as the result of Avery’s misrepresentation, including embarrassment, humiliation, mental anguish, financial loss and the loss of business opportunities. It says the other defendants had a duty to make sure that Avery was properly certified and are partially liable for any harm she caused.
The Green lawsuit is one of potentially many that could arise from the investigation. At a recent criminal proceeding involving Avery, Stafford sheriff’s Detective Ed McCullough testified that he has identified more than 100 victims, many of whom came forward after learning of her arrest.
Some of the patients were misdiagnosed and prescribed medication for ailments they really didn’t have, according to evidence gathered by investigators.
No trial date has been set for the civil suit. Avery’s criminal trial is scheduled to start Dec. 10.
Keith Epps: 540/374-5404 firstname.lastname@example.org