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Another Tampa General Hospital Employee Indicted for PHI Theft and Fraud

This week, another former employee of Tampa General Hospital has been indicted on charges of tax refund fraud, aggravated identity theft, and wrongful disclosure of health information. This is the second former employee of the hospital who has been accused of stealing patient data with a view to committing tax fraud.

The first case concerned a former records clerk, Tigi Moore, who stole the protected health information of patients in 2012 and used the information to file false tax returns. Moore and her co-conspirators managed to obtain $671,022.99 in fraudulent tax refunds before being apprehended. The trio had actually filed tax returns requesting around $1.8 million.

In 2014, Moore pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated identity theft, theft of government property, and conspiracy and was sentenced to serve 4 years in jail.

The latest case concerns Shakania Benton, 37, who worked as a unit coordinator at Tampa General Hospital between February 2007 and August 2014, when she was fired for stealing patient data from the hospital. The data theft was not discovered by the hospital, but by law enforcement offers during a traffic stop. The officers noticed documents in Benton’s vehicle which appeared to contain personal information of patients from the hospital. The matter was brought to the attention of the hospital and Benton was fired.

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While it was clear that Benton had stolen patient data, Tampa General Hospital was unable to determine exactly which patients’ data had actually been stolen. Potentially, Benton had stolen the data of as many as 675 patients. The hospital determined this from the number of records Benton had accessed during her time at the hospital, including the records which Benton legitimately accessed as required by her job. All of those patients were offered credit monitoring and identity theft protection services and were notified of the potential breach by mail.

It is also not clear exactly how many patients Benton tried to defraud, although her indictment specifically mentions two instances of tax fraud. Benton is alleged to have filed tax returns in the names of two patients of the hospital, and received refunds totaling $17,000, which were paid into her bank account.

Benton has now been charged with aggravated identity theft, theft of government property, wrongful disclosure of health information, and wire fraud. She faces up to 10 years in jail for the crimes.

The theft of patient data is understood to have occurred around the same time that Moore took data from the hospital. Since then, Tampa General Hospital has implemented an electronic health record system and is able to accurately track and monitor the accessing of patient data. The hospital now monitors data access attempts and routinely conducts audits to identify instances of unauthorized accessing of patient data.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.