U.S. Lawyer John M. Bales has declared that Joneshia Cranford, a 33-year old inhabitant of Lufkin in the Eastern Region of Texas, has pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Law of 1996.
Cranford was accused of wrongly accessing the Safeguarded Health Info of patients at the healthcare establishment where she worked and revealing that info for financial compensation, with the lady pleading guilty to the illegal revelation of individually identifiable health info.
The 2 persons to whom the info was revealed – Shavator Albro, 35, as well as Francis “Frank” Ibiok, 28 from Houston – have both pleaded accountable to healthcare and identity deception allegations.
The deliberate revelation of individually identifiable health info carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, whereas the use of that info to commit Medicaid, Medicare or Insurance scam carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. A sentencing date for the crimes has not yet been set.
HIPAA is controlled by the Office of Civil Rights of the Division of Health and Human Services, and an inquiry into the breaches is still continuing. The Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), The Texas Office of the Attorney General, as well as the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (OAG-MFCU) are also all included in the inquiry.
The lawsuit was heard by Zack Hawthorn, U.S. Magistrate Judge and Cranford is presently going through a pre-sentence statement. Although the maximum duration is 10 years in prison, it’s likely that a plea deal would be agreed requiring Cranford to pass at least 60 days in jail as well as 5 years on trial; with credit provided for the time previously served.
Healthcare organizations can be held answerable for breaches of HIPAA caused by worker snooping and it’s probable that the OCR will impose a penalty to the healthcare organization where Cranford worked in case proof of non-compliance issues is revealed.