In a truly disturbing case of alleged identity theft, a Scripps Health worker is accused of stealing the personal information of patients -- specifically targeting the deceased and dying, and even a homeless patient -- and then selling it to several others, who were involved in fraudulently applying for COVID-19 unemployment benefits.
The complaint, which was unsealed July 9, includes a troubling chain of text messages in which Matthew Lombardo allegedly writes “this guy died just a few hours ago,” and “this one just died if you wanna try.”
Also named in the complaint are Konrad Piekos, Ryan Genetti and Dobrilla “BeBe” Milosavljevic.
The group has been charged with Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, Aggravated Identity Theft, Wrongful Disclosure of Individually Identifiable Health Information and Conspiracy.
Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.
According to a U.S. Attorney’s office spokesperson, all four have pleaded not guilty.
“Mr. Lombardo was a patient services specialist employed by Scripps Health on an as-needed basis from May 13, 2019, to April 14, 2021. He was terminated on April 14, 2021, for cause. Scripps takes its responsibility for protecting patient privacy very seriously and is cooperating with the government investigation,” reads a statement from Scripps Health Public Information Director Keith Darce.
Darce did not say where the identity thefts took place.
The federal complaint also does not say whether any of the fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits were successful, but the complaint does say the group was successful in securing bogus claims from several people who were incarcerated.
“It’s so troubling. It’s just despicable,” said Eva Valasquez.
Valasquez leads the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center. She called the case a "crime of opportunity."
Velasquez said COVID-19 benefits became an attractive target for thieves during the pandemic. She said there was a 3,800% increase in the number of reported ID theft cases.
She is calling on companies to be more vigilant.
“This is where they need to step up to the plate and increase their cybersecurity practices and their data collection handling practices,” said Velasquez.
Genetti is also facing wire fraud charges stemming from a separate case involving three more San Diego County residents according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors say Genetti, Lindsay Renee Henning, Garrett Carl Tuggle and Salvatore Compilati were involved in 108 separate wire fraud conspiracy claims that paid out more than $1.6 million.
If you think you are a victim of COVID-19-related fraud, you can visit ic3.gov or tips.fbi.gov, or call 1-800-CALL-FBI or the San Diego FBI at 858-320-1800.