A federal grand jury has indicted four people, including a former employee of the University of Maryland Medical Center, in what prosecutors said was a scheme to steal patients' identities.
The 17-count indictment was unsealed Thursday after the arrests of Kenneth Elliott McDowell, 47; Wendy Hinton, 21; and William White, 54, all of Baltimore. Devin Jarmal Smith, also known as Sean Jones, 20, also of Baltimore, is still being sought.
"The defendants are charged with preying upon seriously ill hospital patients and their families by using their personal information to access their credit accounts and even to open new credit accounts using their identities," Rod J. Rosenstein, Maryland's U.S. attorney, said in a statement. "Anyone who finds evidence that their names or credit cards have been used in a fraud scheme should report it to the authorities immediately."
The indictment alleges that McDowell, the former medical center employee, stole patient financial information as well as the information of others who had paid for medical treatment from July 2009 to June 2011. The indictment said he then passed the information to his co-conspirators, who are accused of opening credit cards in victims' names and accessing their accounts to pay for purchases and obtain cash advances, the indictment says.
If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for conspiracy, plus terms for other charges, including bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. They appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore and were released with supervision.
A spokeswoman for the University of Maryland Medical Center said that protecting patients' personal information is a "top priority" and that there are policies in place.
"This breach was a result of a crime, and not a lapse of hospital procedures," said Mary Lynn Carver, the spokeswoman. "We suspended the employee in question when we learned of this situation, and we have cooperated fully with federal law enforcement authorities in their investigation."