A volunteer at a veterans' hospital in Tampa is accused of stealing patient information that was used to file fake tax returns.
Ricardo Jacinto Rodriguez is facing federal charges in connection with the alleged scheme, according to a grand jury indictment from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
Rodriguez allegedly used his position as a volunteer to steal the identities and pass them on to Andropolis Jioberiti Mitchell, who used them to file the tax returns and have refund money directed onto pre-paid debit cards, according to the indictment. The theft and the transfer of information happened "on or about January 25, 2012," according to the indictment.
The James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital and Clinics has sent out "credit monitoring" letters to 106 individuals whose information was believed to have been compromised, a spokeswoman for the hospital said. The hospital is also working with the VA's Office of the Inspector General and the IRS to identify "any other potential victims from this or any other possible incidents," she said.
Tax refund fraud surfaced as a major problem in the Tampa Bay area several years ago, with criminals using identities stolen from businesses, hospitals and other sources to steal millions of dollars from the government. Local law enforcement and the IRS have since tried to crack down on the crime.
As a volunteer, Rodriguez was assigned as a "patient escort" but also made patient appointment reminder phone calls at an off-site clinic, hospital spokesperson Karen Collins said in an email. Rodriguez was a volunteer from Oct. 11, 2011 until November 28, 2012, but worked a total of only 35 hours, she said.
As a result of the Rodriguez incident, a new "information security/privacy special task force" has been formed to identify vulnerabilities in safeguarding personal information and "we have been addressing vulnerabilities with corrective actions as appropriate," she said.
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