FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, September 21, 2012
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Former Howard University Hospital Employee Sentenced
For Selling Personal Information About Patients
- Information Was Then Used on Forged Prescriptions for Oxycodone -
WASHINGTON - Laurie Napper, a former medical technician at Howard University Hospital, was sentenced today to six months in a halfway house and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service on a federal charge stemming from the sale of personal information about patients, along with blank prescription forms, announced U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Napper, 33, of Alexandria, Va., pled guilty in June 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to the wrongful disclosure of individually identifiable health information. The charge is a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). She was sentenced by the Honorable Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. The judge placed Napper on three years of probation. The first six months of that time will be spent in the halfway house. After that, Napper will spend an additional six months on home confinement, able to leave only for work and other designated circumstances. Napper also was fined $2,100.
According to a statement of offense signed by the defendant as well as the government, Napper worked as a medical technician in Howard University Hospital’s general surgery department. In that capacity, she had access to individually identifiable health information of Howard University Hospital patients, as well as hospital prescription pads.
From August 2010 through December 2011, on at least three occasions, Napper obtained the records of multiple hospital patients. She then sold the names, addresses, dates of birth and Medicare numbers to another person, along with blank hospital prescription forms. Napper received about $500 to $800 in cash for each of the transactions.
In total, Napper sold about 40 Howard University Hospital patient names and information to the person, and she received approximately $2,100 in cash in return.
After receiving the prescription pads and patient information from Napper, the person forged prescriptions for oxycodone. The person then presented the forged prescriptions to pharmacies in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and provided Napper’s telephone number at Howard University Hospital for verification. When the pharmacists called Napper, she confirmed the legitimacy of the prescriptions, allowing the pharmacists to fill them and to provide the person with oxycodone.
“Health care providers have an obligation to closely guard their patients’ confidentiality,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Patients deserve to have their personal information kept private, not sold for cash in a scheme to forge prescriptions for painkillers. This felony conviction confirms that private patient information is a trust to be protected, not a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder.”
“Cases like this demonstrate that drug distribution is not just on street corners, but can take place with an illegally obtained prescription pad and patient information,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “Today’s sentence sends a message that selling patient information and forged prescriptions for personal benefit is dangerous and illegal, and we will bring those who commit prescription drug fraud to justice.”
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen and Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin praised the Special Agents who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the Montgomery County, Md., Police Department. Finally, they acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Legal Assistant Nicole Wattelet and Assistant U.S. Attorney David S. Johnson, who prosecuted the matter.