TAMPA — Federal authorities say employees at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center and Tampa General Hospital stole patients' identities in tax fraud schemes.
Haley employee David F. Lewis is accused of taking the names and Social Security numbers of dozens of hospital patients and selling the information to people who used it to file fraudulent tax returns and get refunds, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa said Wednesday.
Lewis has a severe drug problem and acknowledged to investigators that he sold some of the patient information in exchange for crack cocaine, federal prosecutors said. Haley officials declined to comment but confirmed that Lewis worked as a medical support assistant until he was transferred to the hospital laundry earlier this year.
Lewis made $105,271 in the scheme, which the government said it is seeking to recover. He has pleaded not guilty to 12 charges that include aggravated identity theft and the wrongful disclosure of health information.
Meanwhile, a federal grand jury this week indicted Tigi Moore, a clerk in Tampa General Hospital's records department. She is accused of taking the names and Social Security numbers of nine patients to file fraudulent income tax returns and collect the refunds.
Moore, who had worked at TGH since 1998, was placed on unpaid administrative leave in October when authorities notified the hospital that she was under investigation, TGH spokesman John Dunn said.
According to the indictment, Moore took nine patients' information between March and September 2012 and gave it to two men, Corey A. Coley Sr. and Albert E. Moore Jr., as part of a wider scheme that wound up defrauding the government out of more than $671,000.
Officials say that scheme also involved using the identities of minors on probation. Coley, a former probation officer for Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice, was charged in March with using the juvenile defendants' identities to collect fraudulently obtained income tax refunds. Albert E. Moore Jr., a Walmart employee, was also charged in the scheme.
All three were indicted on conspiracy, wire fraud and theft of government property charges. Tigi Moore was also indicted on nine counts of wrongful disclosure of health information.
A conviction for wrongful disclosure of health information carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
"These crimes are particularly egregious, and the VA Office of Inspector General is dedicated to aggressively investigating individuals who misuse patient information, especially when used for personal and financial gain," said Special Agent in Charge Quentin G. Aucoin of the VA's Office of Inspector General.