Shelley M. Noreika, 49, told doctors her adopted daughter was experiencing seizures “when in fact no such seizures were occurring” throughout February 2020, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
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On Feb. 4, 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 time did Noreika witness her daughter having an actual seizure,” read the press release from the Ministry of Justice.
Noreika, who prosecutors said is no longer in custody of a child, pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements regarding health matters before she was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Sylvia H. Rambo. In addition to the 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 actual suffering inflicted on another, previously known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a mental illness in which a relative inflicts or causes an illness or injury on a person under their care, in order to gain attention and sympathy for themselves himself,” the government and defense attorneys said, according to the release.
But beyond sympathy, Noreika had a clear fiscal motive. Prosecutors said she received enhanced Medicare and adoption benefits. She raised a combined $5,400 using Amazon Wish List, GoFundMe and Facebook, and took money from charities locating her daughter’s care, according to reporting from PennLive.
“Today’s sentencing sends a strong message that protecting children is a top priority,” said Special Agent Maureen R. Dixon, of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General Philadelphia Regional Office, according to the Ministry of Justice’s press release.
“HHS-OIG will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to thoroughly investigate allegations of child abuse and ensure that 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 US Attorney’s Office for their partnership and commitment to this investigation.”
At the state level, Noreika also faces charges of endangering the welfare of a child, simple assault, strangulation and harassment, according to Cumberland County Court documents. Noreika faced those charges in April 2021 after police discovered she and her husband used a plastic Wiffle ball bat to beat 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 connection with the incident, according to PennLive. The man “choked the victim and struck the victim … with a closed fist, causing injury” on multiple occasions between January 2017 and June 2020, according to the outlet.