Public Health Clerk Stole 1,000 Patient Identities for $1.7M Tax Refund Scam

Alissa Tabirian | September 26, 2013 | 12:18pm EDT
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( – A clerical worker at the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) emailed patients’ private identity information, which was stored in a protected state database,  to an accomplice who used the information to file “over 1,000 false tax returns that claimed over $1.7 million in fraudulent tax refunds,” according to a statement released Monday by the Department of Justice.

The case was investigated by special agents of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation unit.

ADPH employee Lea’Tice Phillips, who was indicted on 37 counts of aggravated identity theft and wire fraud, repeatedly accessed Alabama’s health care database between October 2009 and April 2012 and sent the stolen identity information to her accomplice, Antoinette Djonret, via her state email account.

Djonret then “used an elaborate network of individuals” she had recruited “to launder the tax refunds” by directing them to prepaid debit cards. Some of the debit cards “were in the name of Phillips,” according to the DOJ.

Phillips pleaded guilty for her role in the scam on May 30th and was ordered to pay restitution of $567,631 in addition to being sentenced to 94 months in prison for conspiring with Djonret to defraud the federal government.

Djonret, who filed most of the phony tax returns from her Montgomery home, “was sentenced to serve 12 years in prison for her role in the conspiracy,” the press release stated.

In a June 27 letter to Alabama residents whose identities may have been stolen by Phillips, Samarria Dunson, ADPH's privacy officer, noted that Phillips’ employment with the state had been terminated and said the state had completed a "forensics security investigation" into the theft.

ADPH has also "undertaken the task of monitoring the electronic mail gateway to ensure that employees are not sending out protected health information in a non-work-related manner," she wrote. (See ADPH letter.pdf)


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