Con man's resume had obvious error

August 18, 1994|By Kris Antonelli and Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Kris Antonelli and Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Sun Staff Writers

If the people who hired Haroon Ansari had studied his resume, they would have noticed he claimed to have directed a Kansas City mental health program in 1974, when he was 13.

But no one did.

Mr. Ansari, 33, who was chosen after a national search last year to oversee Crownsville Hospital Center, resigned from his $63,000-a-year job Monday after state officials discovered that he had falsified his resume. He was described by state officials as a con man who took advantage of a lapse in background checking.

In the five-page resume he gave to a six-member search committee last year, he claimed that he was a program administrator at Johnson County Psychiatric and Social Services Center in Kansas City from March 1974 to December 1977. His driver's license lists his birthday as March 9, 1961.

"I don't think that we had an age for him," said Terry Bohrer, chairwoman of the committee and director of the Prince George's County Mental Health Authority.

"That's one of those questions that we are not allowed to ask."

However, Robert W. Eastridge, deputy secretary of the state department of Health and Mental Hygiene, finds that disturbing. "In all candor, I'm surprised that the screening committee didn't look at the dates."

None of the claims that Mr. Ansari made on his resume were checked by anyone on the search committee or in the state personnel department, Mr. Eastridge said.

State procedures for new hires call for the personnel department at the facility, in this case Crownsville, to check resumes and references. But because there was a search committee, the paperwork for Mr. Ansari was in Baltimore, Mr. Eastridge said.

When it arrived at Crownsville, the personnel department assumed that the committee had checked it, Mr. Eastridge said.

An official in Genessee County, Mich., where Mr. Ansari worked before coming to Crownsville, said Mr. Ansari resigned his position there as director of a substance abuse program after he was caught lying about his credentials.

"When people began complaining about him here, they began checking him out," said Vera Rison, a Genessee County commissioner Mr. Ansari listed on his resume as a reference.

Ms. Rison said she got to know Mr. Ansari when he was hired as director of a state-funded program called IARC in Flint, Mich. Although he claims to have worked there for six years just prior to coming to Crownsville, Ms. Rison said he only worked there about two years. During that time, people came to dislike him, she said.

"They said he had an attitude and that he was defensive," she said. "But he never showed me that side."

Ms. Rison said after he resigned, Mr. Ansari called her to ask if he could use her name on his resume. No one from Maryland called her, she said.

"I tried to befriend him, and even though he made a mistake, he is a bright man," she said. "He had something going for him. But now I'm angry that he has lied again and used my name to do it."

Mr. Ansari was hired at Crownsville, a 253-bed hospital with a $24 million budget, in July 1993. He managed to go about six months before raising suspicions, said Mr. Eastridge.

But his decision to launch three or four statewide programs at once raised a red flag, said Dr. Stuart Silver, director of the Mental Health Administration.

"It was sketchy. There was not enough detail, and that was worrisome," he said. "People were saying he was not making sense." At the same time, several "key clinical people" on staff unhappy with Mr. Ansari's management style transferred out of Crownsville, Dr. Silver said.

The combination of incidents led Dr. Silver to begin an investigation last month.

The assistant attorney general who handles complaints for the Department of Health and Human Services began reviewing Mr. Ansari's resume. She found that he did not have a doctorate or the two master's degrees he claimed. She also could not verify jobs he claimed to have held in Michigan or Illinois.

Dr. Silver contacted top state health department officials two weeks ago and made plans to confront Mr. Ansari when he returned from a two-week vacation in Pakistan. He resigned when questioned, Dr. Silver said.

Ms. Bohrer said it was not her committee's job to check Mr. Ansari's resume. She said the committee received about 60 resumes from the state personnel office in Baltimore. They eventually narrowed it to five applicants and recommended two or three of them to Dr. Silver.

Dr. Silver, who flew Mr. Ansari in for two interviews, said he was impressed with his knowledge and credentials. He called one reference: Dr. T. Hunter, who listed his position as a senior vice president for Aetna Insurance in Kalamazoo, Mich.

"He spoke glowingly of Dr. Ansari," Dr. Silver said, adding that Dr. Hunter had some connection with mental health but he could not recall what it was.

Dr. Silver also contacted a colleague at a forensic hospital in Michigan, who was not listed as a reference. The colleague did not know Mr. Ansari, and Dr. Silver made no additional calls.

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said yesterday that he is investigating the case and will consider prosecuting Mr. Ansari if he is found to have lied on his resume or during job interviews.

"It is a specific crime to act deceptively to improve your chances of gaining employment in the state of Maryland," he said.

Ms. Bohrer said Mr. Ansari told her during his interview that the reason he wanted to move to Maryland was because his wife had gotten a job here.

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