Hospital employees steal patient IDs, collect tax refunds

Tax refundIf you’re going to bilk people out of their hard-earned cash, the best time to do it is when they’re flat on their back, preferably unconscious. That M.O. worked well enough for two nurse’s aides at a Virginia hospital who managed to net more than $116,000 before they were nabbed by authorities.

PilotOnline reports that Festus Ighalo, 36, of Virginia Beach and Emmanuel Effiong, 35, of Dallas, Texas, both employees at Sentara Hospital in eastern Virginia, had quite a little racket going on. They would steal patients’ identifies from hospital admission records, file phony income tax returns, and split the refund checks. Admittedly, it was more involved and time-consuming than your typical penny-ante theft, but according to authorities, the two stood to collect a total $401,074 at the time of their arrest.

Last week, the men were charged with 48 counts of wrongdoing, including charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to defraud the government.

Effiong’s attorney, Paul Todd Sartwell, claims his client maintains his innocence. Effiong admits that he and Ighalo were roommates but insists he had moved to Texas right around the time the scheme began.

A statement released by a spokesman for Sentara Healthcare reads in part, “We take the protection of patient information entrusted to us very seriously and have safeguards in place,” adding that the company is working closely with law enforcement.

Sentara is offering patients identified in the indictment a one-year subscription to credit-monitoring services. Yeah, that should help immensely when the tax man comes calling.

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