Janitorial Fraud Ring Targets Austin Medical Facilities: Who’s in Your Office?

By Jeanine Lehman, Attorney at Law

Dental offices are targets of thieves.  Thieves have many faces including the front desk person stealing cash, the addict taking controlled substances, and the office manager embezzling funds.  Thieves may also have the faces of your janitors and their confederates. The jackpot is the information comprising the identities of the dental practice’s patients, staff and dentists.  Recently, an Austin-based janitorial fraud ring targeted medical facilities to steal patient identities.

In the multi-million dollar Austin-based “stolen identity refund fraud” scheme, the defendants engaged in a fraudulent scheme to steal the identity of hundreds of US citizens and exploit those identities for financial gain by filing fraudulent income tax returns and by opening credit cards in the names of the victims.  Money laundering was also involved. The intended loss of the fraud conspiracy was approximately $3.9 million. Among the ways that the conspiracy illegally acquired Personal Identification Information (PII) of US victims was through operating cleaning services in the Austin area, cleaning offices, and then looting those offices of PII.  Among the locations the conspiracy victimized were medical facilities, where patient files were stolen. The indictment indicated that one of the defendants and one of the at-large suspects owned cleaning franchises.

On April 27, 2018, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel sentenced the two apprehended foreign nationals to 8 years and 7 years in federal prison and ordered payment of restitution in the amount of $1,358,489 for these identity theft crimes.  Two additional suspects were still at large at the time of the sentencing. For more information on this identity theft fraud scheme, see the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release at: www.justice.gov/usao-wdtx/pr/two-foreign-nationals-sentenced-federal-prison-role-austin-based-multi-million-dollar  While the federal indictment did not list the names of dental practices as victims, dental practices can fall prey to the same identity theft crimes.

Jeanine Lehman is an Austin, Texas dental, health and business law attorney with a statewide practice – www.jeanine.com. She can be reached at (512) 918-3435 or Jeanine@Jeanine.com. © Jeanine Lehman 2018. This article is not legal advice.