In the eyes of a parliamentary committee, she is a courageous whistleblower who put the interests of WA above her own.
The State Opposition has used her inside knowledge and unwavering pursuit of the truth to beat the Barnett Government into submission.
But Ashton Foley, the former chief operating officer of the embattled Peel Health Campus in Mandurah, is now at the centre of stunning allegations from the hospital that she is not all she appears to be.
Documents it provided to the Premier’s office after extensive inquiries in her home country of America claim that Mrs Foley has several aliases, including the name Michelle Marie Foley, a woman wanted in the US on charges of theft by deception, fraud and identity theft in 2008.
According to public records from DeKalb County in the State of Georgia, the wanted woman shares the same date of birth as Mrs Foley.
The police documents refer to Michelle Marie Foley being kept in custody between September and November 2008, when she was released on $8000 bail.
Now employed as the chief executive of a regional health service in Victoria, Mrs Foley dismissed the claims as more of the harassment and intimidation she has suffered from the moment she went public with internal documents about Peel Health Campus.
“In 2008, my twins were born in May of that year, which coincides with the dates this person was incarcerated,” she told The Weekend West. “I arrived here in Australia in 2006 and wasn’t in the States in 2008. I’d like to see these documents because they’re either not me or they’ve fabricated them.”
Her denial could not be stronger and she provided a document from the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to back it up.
The 2010 document shows that she had a child in Carlton, Victoria, in 2008 about the time the hospital claims she was committing offences in the US.
“Definitely not me,” Mrs Foley said.
She said her twins were born in Australia in May 2008. “I was here at that time and my children were actually still in the hospital in Victoria because they were premature and were not released until one came home in December,” she said. “The other was in and out of hospital until August the following year and then passed away in January 2010.”
Mrs Foley has previously complained that her dead child’s memory box was searched as part of the PHS legal action against her.
Late yesterday, she faxed the first 13 pages of her US passport. No stamps or other evidence that she had entered or left the US were evident on pages of the passport, which was issued in January 2008.
The signature on the passport is “Ashton Michelle Foley”. The name the passport was issued in is “Michelle Foley”.
Until September last year, when Mrs Foley resigned from PHC and publicly labelled the hospital’s board dysfunctional and made allegations of fraudulent medical expense claims, her name would not have raised a flicker.
Since then, she has given interviews, had her house searched under the powers of a Supreme Court order, given evidence to a select committee of Parliament and received high praise for her actions.
Punch the name Ashton Foley into Google and you will find plenty of references to the woman who said enough was enough and spoke out for the people of Mandurah.
“The committee wishes to place on record its appreciation to Mrs Foley, who put the interests of the people of WA above those of her own,” parliamentary select committee chairwoman Giz Watson said in November. “It is not easy for anyone to be the whistleblower and Mrs Foley is to be commended for her courage in this regard. The committee wishes her well in future endeavours.”
The Florida-born woman’s past is now under the microscope of the Public Sector Commissioner, who will examine whether the claims about Mrs Foley’s bona fides affect the work of the select committee.
Investigations in the US, which came about when information was sent to Health Solutions WA, the owners of PHC, refer to Mrs Foley as Michelle Marie Gonzalez, Michelle Ritter, Michelle Foley and Ashton Ritter.
Each identity has the same birth date and a range of civil and criminal matters attached to them dating back to 1997.
When The Weekend West first asked Mrs Foley about the combination of names, she denied ever being known as Gonzalez or Ritter.
Reporter: Did you marry a Ritter?
Mrs Foley: No, my maiden name was Ariotti.
Reporter: You’ve never married an Adam Ritter?
Mrs Foley: No. Who is he?
But a 2007 weddings website has her photograph and refers to Mrs Foley as Ashton Ritter marrying Wayne Foley near Melbourne.
Quizzed again, she said that Ritter was her previous married name but it was a marriage she wanted to forget.
The Weekend West has made repeated attempts to substantiate Mrs Foley’s claim of having a doctorate from New York University.
But after checking the combination of names Mrs Foley says she has gone under since the 1990s, the university found no supporting records.
Mrs Foley, 40, said she was not a woman called Michelle Marie Gonzalez, who studied for a year at the university in 1993.
She also denied using Marie as part of her name. She disputed a bank document PHS claims she completed as part of her employment with Health Solutions WA, which has her name as Michelle Marie-Ashton Foley.
“I would question the legitimacy of any document provided by Peel Health Campus,” Mrs Foley said.
She said the mugshot and police record of Michelle Marie Foley “do not relate to me and the social security number, prior names, residential information and physical description differ from that of my own.
“My sources have been able to identify more than 600 Michelle Foleys, 110 Michelle A. Foleys, 250 Michelle M. Foleys and 330 Michelle Ritters residing in the United States and at least 20 with my same date of birth,” she said.
After a report of the parliamentary committee, which was “surprised at the seriousness and extent of issues” surrounding PHC, the Government called in Professor Bryant Stokes to investigate.
Mrs Foley said she was due to give evidence to the retired neurosurgeon next week.
“I will not be intimidated, and regardless of what havoc they create,” she said. I will still be testifying next week.” “The hundreds of documents and 15 years of their fraud and misdeeds speak for themselves.”