OLYMPIA — A Seattle nurse opened a letter from the Internal Revenue Service in 2017.
It said he had a tax debt for underreported income at nursing homes around Puget Sound. But he had never worked at a nursing home in his life.
The letter, and a subsequent federal investigation, unraveled an alleged fraud scheme by one of the man’s old community college classmates.
Federal charges say Alieu Drammeh, 53, stole the man’s identity to repeatedly get hired as a nurse in King and Snohomish counties. According to the court papers, the falsehoods went back about 15 years, and he used fake credentials to get hired as a nursing director at a Seattle care home.
Drammeh, a longtime Everett resident, was indicted by a grand jury earlier this year in U.S. District Court in Seattle for social security number misuse, a crime that carries potential prison time.
The state Department of Health sent a cease-and-desist letter to Drammeh, ordering him to stop “any and all conduct constituting the practice of nursing in Washington,” according to a public announcement this month.
Drammeh, an immigrant from The Gambia, became a registered nurse in Washington and Oregon in 2007. Three years later, the Oregon Nursing Board found something wasn’t right with his paperwork. An investigation revealed the man had forged a signature to get his license, according to the charges in federal court. The Oregon license was revoked in 2011, and the Washington license was suspended, the charges say.
Drammeh then moved to Washington. Apparently, he didn’t give up the profession. He found work at a Lynnwood nursing home, but as soon as his suspended credentials were discovered, he was fired, according to the charges.
Two weeks later, he applied for another nursing job in Everett under a different name, but his potential employer noticed Drammeh used a fake identity to apply for the job, court papers say. He didn’t get it.
Later that year, Drammeh wrote a statement to the Washington Nursing Commission, stating he “stole the ID of (his) friend and attempted to seek a job at (Everett) Transitional Care because they wanted to hire” him.
Months later, Drammeh got another nursing job. He used his real name.
The Washington commission revoked his license — which was already suspended — due to the forged Oregon paperwork.
In 2013, Drammeh tried to use the forged identity again, according to the federal charges. This time, he found work as director of nursing services at Washington Care Services, according to the charges.
Prosecutors believe Drammeh worked there without a license for six years, using the name and social security number of the other man.
Federal agents tracked down Drammeh’s old classmate. The man reported he was a registered nurse and had worked at a large medical center in the Seattle area for over 13 years.
He reported he met Drammeh in the early 2000s at a community college, where they were both taking prerequisite courses for nursing school. The man said he and Drammeh were both from The Gambia. He did not consider Drammeh to be a friend and the two had little contact over the years, according to the charges.
The man reported Drammeh was working as a life insurance salesperson around 2009, and they talked about a potential purchase. The man reported he gave Drammeh his Social Security number and driver’s license number to buy the insurance.
Drammeh never followed up about the insurance, according to the man’s report. But the classmate didn’t think anything of it. Then he got the letter from the IRS.
The man reached out to Drammeh in 2017. They met at a coffee shop and the man explained his suspicions. Drammeh apologized and agreed to repay part of the man’s debt, according to the charges. Drammeh gave the man a cashier’s check for $11,000. The man reported he estimated the identity theft cost him several thousand dollars due to tax refunds that were withheld to pay off his debt.
Around the same time in 2017, police in Lynnwood arrested Drammeh for investigation of filling a shopping cart at Kohl’s with $2,900 in merchandise, then walking out the door. Drammeh completed a diversion program through Snohomish County Superior Court, and the felony charges were dropped.
Meanwhile, in September 2019, a state Department of Health investigator contacted Drammeh’s old classmate about a reported theft of cash from a nursing home resident. He learned Drammeh was still using his identity, according to the charges.
The pair got coffee again, and court records say Drammeh promised to stop.
Later that month, Drammeh reportedly resigned from his job at Washington Care Services by leaving a letter on the desk of an administrator.
“The main reason, I am leaving,” the letter said, “is that I have used another person’s, identity to work here.”
Drammeh wrote he had wasted a “substantial amount” of time and money trying to get his license reinstated, but he could not. In the letter, he apologized for “my misconduct of taking someone else’s identity to practice nursing.”
A federal jury trial is scheduled for February.
Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @reporterellen