Alabaster woman sentenced for stealing hospital patient info
FROM STAFF REPORTS
A federal judge today sentenced an Alabaster woman to more than three years in prison for charges including stealing identifying information on more than 4,000 patients from a Birmingham hospital.
U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn sentenced 26-year-old Chelsea Catherine Stewart, 26, to 15 months in prison for violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and wrongfully obtaining individually identifiable health information from Trinity Medical Center, and for an unrelated bank fraud attempt.
Blackburn also sentenced Stewart to an additional 24 months in prison for aggravated identity theft related to the attempted bank fraud. Stewart pleaded guilty to the three charges in November.
According to court records, Stewart stole the patient information from Trinity Medical Center, formerly Baptist Montclair Hospital, between March 22 and April 8, 2011, while an associate of hers was a patient at the hospital.
The stolen records spanned several years and included names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of patients. Alabaster police recovered hundreds of pages containing the information while executing a search warrant April 8 on a separate case at an Alabaster residence where Stewart was staying, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.
Trinity Medical Center sought to notify all patients whose information was stolen. It announced a toll-free number, 1-866-367-5548, for affected patients to call for free credit monitoring.
Stewart was charged with attempted bank fraud and aggravated identity theft based on her efforts to use a stolen credit-card convenience check to obtain $2,200.
“Fraud and identity theft appeared to be routine activity for this defendant,” Vance wrote in the release. “She could have wreaked financial havoc for untold numbers of individuals through her theft of identifying information on thousands of hospital patients. Fortunately, because of the swift and thorough work of the Alabaster Police Department, the Postal Inspectors and the Secret Service, that threat seems to have been contained.”
“Victims of identity theft may suffer for years,” Alabaster Deputy Police Chief Curtis Rigney wrote in the release. “I only hope that today’s sentencing will serve notice that these types of crimes will be investigated, prosecuted, and prison time will be the end result.”
The Alabaster Police Department, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the U.S. Secret Service Investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Atwood prosecuted the case.