DA report: Fiscus didn’t send herself a muzzle

By: - March 14, 2022 6:02 am
Dr. Michelle Fiscus (Photo: John Partipilo)

Dr. Michelle Fiscus (Photo: John Partipilo)

A fired Tennessee Health Department immunization administrator did not send a dog muzzle to herself, contrary to a state report, a District Attorney’s Office investigation found.

Metro investigators determined that Michelle “Shelley” Fiscus’ personal identifying information was compromised and used by “unknown” actors and possibly “spoofed” in an out-of-state scheme, according to the new report.

An initial Department of Safety and Homeland Security probe determined Fiscus likely sent the muzzle to herself after tracing the order to her American Express card.

Claiming she was framed, Fiscus asked the Davidson County DA’s Office to intervene. 

The DA’s report determined that Homeland Security had documents showing an Amazon order for the muzzle on a duplicate account was made with no connection to Fiscus. Homeland Security did not follow through and interview people in Pennsylvania and San Antonio Texas whose computers apparently were used without their knowledge to buy the muzzle and send it to Fiscus, according to the report.

“DA investigators found no evidence connecting Dr. Fiscus to the muzzle order,” the report written by Assistant District Attorney Chadwick Jackson says. “The level of sophistication involved in this multistate spoofing is inconsistent with the fact that her personal credit card was used – indicating, rather, a lack of sophistication bordering on clumsy, since the cursory inquiry by Homeland Security easily uncovered that detail while much more nefarious evidence lurked deeper under the surface.”

Someone sent the muzzle to Fiscus’ office with the Department of Health in July 2021, the same time frame she was under scrutiny and criticized by lawmakers for sending vaccination “partners” such as drugstores information dealing with the state’s “mature minor doctrine” for the COVID-19 vaccine. Under that doctrine, in some instances, minors can receive medical treatment without parental approval, a matter that upset several lawmakers, who forced the state to take action against Fiscus.

Metro Police fraud investigators found activity on Fiscus’ credit card after it was canceled in May 2020, including a $15.28 purchase of the dog muzzle. Detectives traced a Text-Now phone number to Pennsylvania and an IP address to San Antonio, Texas. But the person who sent the item could not be identified.

The level of sophistication involved in this multistate spoofing is inconsistent with the fact that her personal credit card was used – indicating, rather, a lack of sophistication bordering on clumsy, since the cursory inquiry by Homeland Security easily uncovered that detail while much more nefarious evidence lurked deeper under the surface.

– Chadwick Johnson, Assistant District Attorney, Davidson County

The DA’s Office investigation was unable to determine whether delivery of the muzzle was a threat to Fiscus or politically motivated, “however, the events appear too coincidental to be random,” Jackson’s report notes. 

Fiscus released a statement over the weekend pointing out the Department of Safety released a report in August intimating she sent the dog muzzle to herself. Fiscus said she was affected “professionally and personally” by news reports. 

The former director of the state’s immunization program said she is grateful for the investigation that exonerated her.

“What remains to be determined is if the arrival of a dog muzzle at my state office at a time when GOP legislators were saber rattling about a memo I had sent to physicians explaining the rights of teens outlined in a 34-year-old Tennessee Supreme Court case law was a complete coincidence, or if a political operative sent the muzzle as a message,” Fiscus said.

In January, a federal judge ruled that Fiscus could not pursue claims for monetary damages against the state’s top two Department of Health officials after her firing. At that time, Fiscus planned to appeal the ruling and continue a legal fight to clear her name and prove the state violated her constitutional rights.

Fiscus claimed Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey and Gov. Bill Lee made her the scapegoat in complaints about their child immunization program for COVID-19, which she said was approved by the governor’s office.

 

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Sam Stockard
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial from the Tennessee Press Association.

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