News and Press Releases

Former UPMC Shadyside Hospital Employee Pleads Guilty To HIPAA Violation

June 30, 2011

PITTSBURGH, Pa. ‑ In the first HIPAA prosecution in the Western District of Pennsylvania, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today that a resident of Murrysville, Pa., pleaded guilty to knowingly disclosing patient health information to another person in violation of federal law. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) law passed by Congress provides for national standards for electronic health care transactions and protects patients from the unauthorized disclosure of personal medical information without their consent.

Paul C. Pepala, 36, pleaded guilty to one count before Senior United States District Judge Maurice B. Cohill, Jr.

According to the information provided to the court, Pepala, then employed at UPMC Shadyside disclosed the names and Social Security numbers of patients at Shadyside Hospital.  Many of the names and numbers were then used by other persons to file unauthorized Form 1040 electronic tax returns in 2008, in which the filers sought tax refunds.

The law provides for a maximum total sentence of up to one year in prison, a fine of $50,000.00, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Judge Cohill set sentencing for Oct. 20, 2011.  Pepala will remain on bond pending sentencing.

Assistant United States Attorney Gregory C. Melucci is prosecuting this case on behalf of the United States.

Agents of the United States Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service and Secret Service conducted the investigation leading to the guilty plea.

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