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Mom Sentenced For Forcing 5-Year-Old Daughter To Fake Seizures And Fabricating Girl's Medical Condition

Shelley M. Noreika of Pennsylvania was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for faking her young daughter's illness, prosecutors said, incurring "six-figure losses" for her insurer via medical treatments.

By Christina Coulter
Mom Sentenced For Faking 5-Year-Old Daughter’s Illness

A Pennsylvania woman was sentenced to 30 months in prison for fabricating her 5-year-old daughter's illness, subjecting the child to unnecessary medical treatment and causing her insurer to incur six-figure losses.

Shelley M. Noreika, 49, told medical providers that her adopted daughter was experiencing seizures "when in fact no such seizures occurred" throughout February of 2020, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

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On Feb. 4 of 2020, Noreika instructed her daughter to fake a seizure on film, prosecutors wrote, then emailed the video to the child's pediatric neurologist. 

"In fact, at no point did Noreika witness her daughter have an actual seizure," read the Department of Justice press release.

Noreika, who prosecutors said is no longer in custody of child, pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements concerning health care matters before she was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Sylvia H. Rambo. In addition to prison time, Judge Rambo sentenced the Pennsylvania mother to three years of post-release probation, and to pay a $500 fine and $137,710.86 in restitution "to the victims of the offense."

Noreika's behavior was "consistent with factitious disorder imposed on another, formerly known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a mental illness in which a caregiver makes up or causes an illness or injury to a person under their care, to gain attention and sympathy for themselves," the government and defense attorneys agreed, according to the release.

But in addition to sympathy, Noreika had a clear fiscal motive. Prosecutors said she received enhanced Medicare and adoption subsidies. She fundraised a collective $5,400 using Amazon Wishlist, GoFundMe and Facebook and took money from charitable organizations towards her daughter's care, according to reporting by PennLive.

“Today’s sentencing sends a strong message that protecting children is a top priority,” said Special Agent in Charge Maureen R. Dixon, of the Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General Philadelphia Regional Office, according to the Department of Justice press release.

“HHS-OIG will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to thoroughly investigate allegations of abuse against children and ensure claims submitted to federal and state programs by caregivers are truthful and accurate," Dixon added. "We would like to thank the Pennsylvania State Police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their partnership and commitment in this investigation.”

At the state level, Noreika also faces charges for endangering the welfare of a child, simple assault, strangulation and harassment, according to Cumberland County Court documents. Noreika incurred these charges in April of 2021 after police discovered that she and her husband used a plastic Wiffle ball bat to strike their daughter at their home in Pennsylvania's Lower Mifflin Township, according to reporting by FOX 43.

The woman's husband, David Albert Noreika, 49, was charged with felony endangering the welfare of children, misdemeanor simple assault and summary harassment in relation to the incident, according to PennLive. The man "choked the victim and struck the victim ... with a closed fist, causing injury" on several occasions between January of 2017 and June of 2020, according to the outlet.

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