PAIR CHARGED WITH STEALING PATIENT INFORMATION TO BE USED FOR PERSONAL GAIN
SHERRIE BLAIR, age 26, and CLYDE WASHINGTON, age 50, both residents of Westwego, Louisiana, were charged in a bill of information today, announced U. S. Attorney Jim Letten. BLAIR was charged with mail fraud and identity theft, and WASHINGTON was charged with the wrongful disclosure of protected patient information.
According to court documents, WASHINGTON was employed by a local hospital as a janitor, from November 2008 until June 3, 2009. The non-profit hospital is located in the City of New Orleans and offers primary care, pediatrics, heart and vascular, cancer, digestive, and multi transplant organ services. In his capacity as janitor, WASHINGTON stole printouts containing confidential patient information such as names, social security numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers, home addresses and other personal information that was intended to be shredded. The hospital is a covered entity under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA protects the individual identifiable health information collected from an individual by a health care provider.
On March 3, 2009, WASHINGTON brought the stolen patient information sheets to the residence of his girlfriend, SHERRIE BLAIR., who then created online accounts with companies in the names of the hospital patients contained on the information sheets. Once BLAIR opened the accounts using the internet, she was then able to either order merchandise that would be shipped to her residence for her use and for others. Specifically, BLAIR used these accounts to obtain items such as DVD’s, CD’s, loans, an $800 ring, a 42 inch Samsung Plasma television, and gift cards, all in the names of the hospital patients.
If convicted, BLAIR faces a maximum term of imprisonment of twenty (20) years on the mail fraud count, a maximum term of imprisonment of five (5) years on the identity theft count, as well as a fine of $250,000.00 and three (3) years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment, as to each count. WASHINGTON faces a maximum term of imprisonment of ten (10) years on the wrongful disclosure of individually identifiable health information count, as well as a fine of $250,000 and three (3) years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment. Letten reiterated that the bill of information is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendants must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case was investigated by the Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Special Agents of the United States Secret Service. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Jon Maestri and Jordan Ginsberg.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud from a person or an organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of storm victims or have knowledge of waste, abuse, or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud toll free at: (866) 720-5721. You can also fax information to: (225) 334-4707 or e-mail it to: firstname.lastname@example.org