Beginning around summer 2020, Matthew Lombardo pilfered the names, birthdays, social security numbers, and addresses of patients who were dying and passed them along to Konrad Piekos, a suspected drug dealer, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Forbes.
That information was then allegedly forwarded to other accomplices who used it to file fraudulent benefits claims, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
Investigators were led to the scheme after Piekos was pulled over by San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies in October 2020, according to a criminal complaint.
Deputies found multiple firearms and $40,000. That, in turn, led them to serve search warrants on Piekos’ properties where they say they found drugs and text messages with Lombardo allegedly detailing their activities.
Piekos was arrested in March on firearm and weapons-related charges. He has pleaded not guilty, Forbes reported. Lombardo has been arrested and made his first court appearance last week.
A spokesperson for Scripps told Fox Business that Lombardo was a patient services specialist with the non-profit on an “as-needed basis from May 13, 2019 to April 14, 2021.”
Online records do not list an attorney who could speak on Lombardo’s behalf. His LinkedIn page lists him as a self-employed marijuana grower with more than 25 years of experience.
“He was terminated on April 14, 2021, for cause,” the spokesperson said. “Scripps takes its responsibility for protecting patient privacy very seriously and is cooperating with the government investigation.”
When reached by Fox Business, Piekos’ lawyer, Vikram Monder, declined to comment.
The alleged scheme highlights the rampant fraud that has skyrocketed, fueled in large part by the pandemic. According to a recent report from the Federal Trade Commission, identity thefts reported in 2020 were a staggering 3,000% higher than in the previous year.
Fox Business reached out to the Department of Justice but did not hear back. It was not clear whether any COVID benefits were in fact paid out as a result of these claims.
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