In a recent case that highlights the severe consequences of identity theft and fraud, a hospital employee has been sentenced to three years in prison for using patient information to steal pandemic unemployment benefits. Matthew George Lombardo, who worked as a Patient Service Representative at a local hospital, accessed confidential patient information and provided it to a co-defendant for the purpose of submitting fraudulent claims. The sentencing memo revealed disturbing text messages between Lombardo and his co-defendants, where they callously targeted the most vulnerable victims. U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo issued a 36-month sentence, noting that Lombardo’s actions were particularly callous given the national emergency. This case serves as a reminder of the importance of safeguarding personal information and the serious penalties associated with exploiting such information for personal gain.
Summary of the case
In July 2023, Matthew George Lombardo, a hospital employee, was sentenced to 3 years in federal prison for using patient information to steal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. Lombardo, who worked as a Patient Service Representative at a local hospital, had access to patient admission sheets containing identifying information. He misused his position to provide this confidential patient information to a co-defendant, who then used it to submit fraudulent PUA claims to the California Employment Development Department (EDD). Lombardo’s actions targeted vulnerable individuals during a national healthcare emergency.
Matthew George Lombardo was sentenced to 36 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo. During the sentencing, Judge Bencivengo highlighted that Lombardo’s theft of public assistance benefits meant for people in crisis was particularly egregious. The judge also characterized Lombardo’s text messages targeting vulnerable hospital patients as callous.
As a Patient Service Representative at the hospital, Lombardo abused his position of trust by accessing confidential patient information. He then shared this information with a co-defendant, who used it to fraudulently apply for PUA benefits from the EDD. Text messages between Lombardo and his co-defendants revealed that they actively sought out vulnerable victims, exploiting their most vulnerable state.
U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo emphasized the severity of Lombardo’s actions during the sentencing. She noted that the stolen funds were intended to help people in crisis during a national emergency, making Lombardo’s actions even more reprehensible. The judge also highlighted the callousness of Lombardo’s text messages, deliberately targeting hospital patients for personal gain.
Law enforcement’s response
Law enforcement agencies played a crucial role in investigating and prosecuting the case against Matthew George Lombardo. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the United States Postal Inspection Service, the United States Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General, the California Employment Development Department Investigation Division, and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department all contributed to diligently pursuing this case. These agencies worked together to ensure that the perpetrator was held accountable for his actions.
Charges and Penalties
Summary of charges
Matthew George Lombardo faced several charges related to his theft of patient information and fraudulent PUA claims. The charges included:
- Count 1: Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
- Counts 2 and 3: Aggravated Identity Theft, with a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison for each count.
- Count 4: Using Confidential Health Information for Personal Gain, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Maximum penalties for each charge
The maximum penalties for the charges against Lombardo are significant. The charge of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The Aggravated Identity Theft charges each have a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison. Finally, the charge of Using Confidential Health Information for Personal Gain carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. These penalties reflect the severity of the crimes committed and highlight the importance of holding perpetrators accountable.
Drug Enforcement Administration
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) played a crucial role in investigating Matthew George Lombardo’s case. The DEA is responsible for enforcing federal drug laws and regulations, but it also collaborates with other law enforcement agencies to address various criminal activities. In this case, the DEA’s involvement likely indicates a connection between Lombardo’s actions and illegal drug-related activities.
United States Postal Inspection Service
The United States Postal Inspection Service is an agency tasked with protecting the U.S. Postal Service, its employees, and its customers from criminal activities. In this case, the Postal Inspection Service likely contributed to the investigation due to the use of the U.S. mail system to facilitate the PUA fraud committed by Lombardo and his co-defendants.
United States Department of Labor, Office of the Inspector General
The United States Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is responsible for investigating allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse in labor programs and operations. In this case, the OIG likely played a role in uncovering Lombardo’s misuse of patient information and his illegal acquisition of PUA benefits intended for those affected by the pandemic.
California Employment Development Department Investigation Division
The California Employment Development Department Investigation Division is responsible for investigating fraudulent activity related to unemployment benefits in the state of California. In Lombardo’s case, this agency likely collaborated with federal authorities to uncover the fraudulent PUA claims and identify the individuals involved in the scheme.
San Diego County Sheriff’s Department
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is a local law enforcement agency responsible for maintaining public safety in San Diego County. In Lombardo’s case, the Sheriff’s Department likely provided support to federal agencies during the investigation, ensuring coordination and cooperation between local and federal authorities.
Defendant’s name and age
The defendant in this case is Matthew George Lombardo, aged 54.
Summary of charges
Matthew George Lombardo faced multiple charges related to his theft of patient information and involvement in fraudulent PUA claims. The charges included Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, Aggravated Identity Theft, and Using Confidential Health Information for Personal Gain.
Contact information for Assistant U.S. Attorneys
For further information regarding the case, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alicia Williams and Stephen H. Wong can be contacted at (619) 546-8917 and (619) 546-9464, respectively.
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Impact on Victims
Victims of identity theft
The victims in this case are the individuals whose patient information was stolen by Matthew George Lombardo and his co-defendants. These victims may face various consequences as a result of the theft, including financial loss, damage to their credit scores, and potential challenges in accessing healthcare services.
Consequences of identity theft and fraud
Identity theft and fraud can have far-reaching consequences for victims. They may experience financial losses, incur legal expenses in resolving the issue, and suffer damage to their credit ratings. Victims of identity theft also face the stress and emotional toll of having their personal information misused. It is crucial to address and prevent identity theft to protect individuals and maintain public trust in the healthcare system.
Preventing Identity Theft
Tips for protecting personal information
To prevent identity theft, individuals should take proactive measures to protect their personal information. Some tips include:
- Safeguarding personal documents containing sensitive information, such as social security numbers and financial statements.
- Using strong, unique passwords for online accounts.
- Being cautious when sharing personal information online or over the phone.
- Regularly monitoring credit reports to identify any suspicious activity.
- Avoiding phishing attempts by being cautious of unsolicited requests for personal information.
Importance of monitoring financial accounts
Regularly monitoring financial accounts is crucial in detecting identity theft early on. Individuals should keep a close eye on their bank statements, credit card bills, and other financial transactions to identify any unauthorized activity promptly. Prompt reporting of suspicious activity can help mitigate the damage caused by identity theft.
Reporting suspicious activity
If individuals suspect that their personal information has been compromised or if they notice any suspicious activity, they should report it to the appropriate authorities immediately. This can include local law enforcement, credit reporting agencies, and the Federal Trade Commission. Prompt reporting of identity theft is essential to prevent further harm and aid in the investigation of such crimes.
Response from the Hospital
Actions taken by the hospital
Following the discovery of Matthew George Lombardo’s actions, the hospital took immediate steps to address the breach of patient confidentiality. These actions may include conducting internal investigations, enhancing data security protocols, and implementing additional training programs for employees.
Safeguarding patient information
The protection of patient information is of utmost importance in the healthcare sector. Hospitals and healthcare organizations must implement robust security measures, such as encryption, access controls, and regular vulnerability assessments, to safeguard patient data from unauthorized access.
Training employees on data security
To prevent future breaches and ensure the integrity of patient information, hospitals should provide comprehensive training programs for their employees. These programs should emphasize the importance of patient confidentiality, highlight best practices for data security, and reinforce the legal and ethical obligations associated with handling sensitive information.
Relevant laws and regulations
The misuse of patient information by Matthew George Lombardo and his co-defendants raises significant legal implications. Several laws and regulations are aimed at protecting patient privacy and confidentiality, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act. Violations of these laws can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment and monetary fines.
Patient privacy and confidentiality
Patient privacy and confidentiality are fundamental rights protected by law. Healthcare providers have a legal and ethical obligation to ensure the security and confidentiality of patient information. Breaches of patient privacy jeopardize patient trust in the healthcare system and can have substantial legal and financial consequences for the responsible parties.
Overview of the case
Matthew George Lombardo, a hospital employee, was sentenced to 3 years in federal prison for using patient information to steal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. Lombardo’s actions represented a severe breach of patient confidentiality and an abuse of his position of trust within the healthcare system.
Importance of holding perpetrators accountable
Holding perpetrators of identity theft accountable is crucial for maintaining public trust in the healthcare system and deterring future incidents. The sentencing of Matthew George Lombardo sends a strong message that fraud and abuse of patient information will not be tolerated. By prosecuting such cases, law enforcement agencies reaffirm their commitment to protecting individuals and safeguarding the integrity of healthcare services.