Calling South Florida the “epicenter of identity theft,” U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer on Tuesday announced federal charges against more than 100 suspected fraudsters involved in various schemes to steal personal information from tens of thousands of victims — and using that data in an attempt to steal more than $60 million.
Among those charged is a former secretary for Jackson Health System who is accused of playing a key role in a scheme that stole more than 24,000 patient records and used the information to file fraudulent tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service.
“These identity thieves are stealing the blueprints of our lives,” Ferrer said during a press conference where he was joined by representatives from dozens of federal agencies involved in the crackdown, including the IRS and FBI.
The most prolific of the alleged identity thieves announced Tuesday was Evelina Sophia Reid, a hospital unit secretary and Jackson Health employee since 2005. A grand jury indicted Reid this month, charging her with 14 counts of computer fraud, identity theft and possession of patients’ personal information, including birth dates and Social Security numbers.
According to the indictment, Reid stole the data from computers at Jackson — Miami-Dade’s public hospital system — and then delivered the information to accomplices who filed fraudulent tax returns for those patients.
If convicted of the charges, Reid could face dozens of years in prison.
Reid was suspended in February 2016 on suspicion of stealing reams of private patient information between 2012 and 2016. Calling Reid a “rogue” employee, Jackson officials placed her on administrative leave and stripped her of access to all hospital facilities and records in February 2016. At the time, hospital officials said Reid’s theft may have compromised more than 24,000 records over five years.
In a memo to Miami-Dade commissioners, Jackson CEO Carlos Migoya said the hospital was cooperating with police to investigate Reid’s involvement in the theft of patients’ private information, which is protected under federal law through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.
With Jackson Health in the midst of a $1.4 billion makeover, much of it paid for with taxpayer-financed bonds, Migoya noted the harm that such data breaches can cause to Jackson Health and its efforts to attract more patients.
“For Jackson’s transformation to continue succeeding,” he wrote last year, “we must have an impeccable reputation for respecting the privacy of our patients and their records. Even one dishonest employee can tarnish the reputation of our 11,000 committed and loyal healthcare professionals.”
At the time, Migoya wrote that Jackson Health was in the process of upgrading security for private patient information, and that the hospital’s estimated 11,000 employees had completed additional training on patient privacy.
The hospital system said it also notified patients whose personal information may have been stolen, and offered to pay for credit-monitoring services.