Former Scripps Health Worker Charged Over HIPAA Violation in COVID-19 Unemployment Benefit Fraud Case

The Department of Justice has announced nine San Diego residents have been charged in two separate indictments in connection with the theft of patients’ protected information and the submission of fraudulent pandemic unemployment insurance claims.

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020, new unemployment benefits were offered to individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, who would not, under normal circumstances, qualify for payments.

In one of the cases, Matthew Lombardo, a former Scripps Health employee, was charged with felony HIPAA violations for obtaining and disclosing the protected health information of patients to his alleged co-conspirators. Lombardo was also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, along with three alleged co-conspirators – Konrad Piekos, Ryan Genetti, and Dobrila Milosavljevic. Piekos, Genetti, and Milosavljevic were also charged with aggravated identity theft and are alleged to have used the stolen information to submit fraudulent pandemic unemployment insurance claims.

The San Diego Sheriff’s’ Department had initiated a traffic stop on Konrad Piekos for driving without a license plate. When police officers approached the vehicle, they saw an assault rifle in plain sight in his vehicle. Piekos admitted possessing an unregistered assault rifle, and the subsequent vehicle search revealed several loaded firearms and ammunition. A warrant was obtained to search Piekos’ properties and police officers found several other firearms and ammunition, quantities of heroin and fentanyl, and mobile phones. After obtaining warrants to search the phones, detectives identified text messages between Piekos, Genetti, and Lombardo discussing the illicit distribution of narcotics, firearms, and a scheme to obtain unemployment benefits using other persons’ personal identifying information (PII).

Piekos and Genetti had conspired together to fraudulently obtain PUA benefits in July 2020, with Lombardo joining the scheme in August 2020. Lombardo is alleged to have used his position as a patient financial service representative to access patients’ PII, which he then distributed to Piekos, Genetti, and Milosavljevic starting on August 15,2020, according to the indictment. Scripps Health terminated Lombardo on April 14, 2021.

In a separate case, Genetti and three other defendants – Lindsay Renee Henning, Garrett Carl Tuggle, and Salvatore Compilati – were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Henning and Tuggle were also charged with aggravated identity theft, and Henning, Tuggle, and a fourth defendant, Juan Landon, were charged with possession of methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin with intent to distribute. The defendants had submitted more than 108 separate claims for PUB benefits, totaling $1,615,000.

Lombardo faces a maximum jail term of 10 years in prison for the HIPAA violation along with a fine and penalty assessment. The conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges carry a maximum jail term of 20 years in prison with a fine and penalty assessment, and there is a mandatory minimum 2-year jail term for the aggravated identity theft charges, with the aggravated identity theft jail term consecutive to any other sentences.

“Pandemic unemployment insurance programs are a critical part of our safety net designed to support hardworking citizens who are suffering during an unprecedented economic downturn,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Our office and our law enforcement partners will investigate and prosecute individuals who attempt to steal from these programs designed to assist deserving recipients.”

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.