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Peel con baffles US private eye
Ashton Foley. Picture: ABC News

Retired New York detective Scott Prendergast knows a thing or two about deception after a distinguished 20-year career hunting kidnappers, murderers and rapists.

He holds the record for the city's 9th precinct Cop of the Month award and is now the boss of Cornelius Investigations on Madison Avenue.

But even he was intrigued when hired by the owners of Peel Health Campus, Health Solutions WA, to determine whether the hospital's former chief operating officer was who she had claimed to be.

How could someone earning $200,000-plus and running a major health service in Australia be a complete fraud?

It didn't take him long to discover the answer.

"She's a con artist," he told _The West Australian _. "I saw the sorts of salaries she was making over there without any degrees or verification of her qualifications. Pretty interesting."

Mr Prendergast said the starting point for his inquiries was Ashton Foley's date of birth and two combinations of her name she used most commonly - Michelle Ashton Foley and Ashton Michelle Foley.

Searches across a number of US States, including her home State of Florida, threw up a range of possibilities.

If she was in fact a woman called Michelle Marie Foley, then HSWA and other Australian companies such as Western Power, had employed someone wanted for identity theft and fraud.

"I found seven different names with the same date of birth that were all connected," Mr Prendergast said. "There was part of one name, part of another. It was all mixed." He didn't believe that was by accident.

The main outstanding charges he discovered popped up on the grid in DeKalb County in Georgia, but the private investigator is still trying to determine whether she was jailed there in 2008 for a new matter or on old warrants.

Mrs Foley said the charges, which she previously denied, related to false statements she made on a car lease application.

She said she made the application while on holiday in the US. She was pregnant with twins and, because of complications, she had to remain in the country.

She lied about being employed to secure the lease.

Mr Prendergast is confident Mrs Foley also has outstanding warrants in at least two other counties.

He said if the now-discredited whistleblower, whose information about alleged maladministration at PHC has resulted in two inquiries, wanted to clear up doubts about her past, she should provide a US consulate in Australia with her fingerprints.

"What makes the matters confusing is that there is evidence she has what's called a detainer on her name," Mr Prendergast said. "The detainer is from Florida. I do not know if she had a separate Georgia arrest or if she was just picked up on the Florida warrant."

Mr Prendergast is also looking at false cheques in the names of Michelle Gonzalez Ritter. Mrs Foley last week denied having the names Gonzalez or Ritter.

"To see that information along with the arrests I found, and there might be more, I was surprised by the jobs she'd had," Mr Prendergast said.