NM: Former PHS employee sentenced to prison in medical ID theft/fraud scheme

This morning, Senior United States District Judge C. LeRoy Hansen sentenced Albuquerque resident Christine Horning, 35, to a 24-month term of imprisonment to be followed by four-years supervised release based on her guilty pleas to aggravated identity theft and health care fraud. Judge Hansen also ordered Horning to pay $24,679.48 in restitution to Medicaid and Presbyterian Health Care Services (PHS). Horning is required to surrender to the United States Bureau of Prisons to start serving her prison sentence once her prison facility has been designated.

Horning was charged in a 26-count indictment that was filed on April 14, 2010. The indictment charged Horning with 15 counts of mail fraud, three counts of health care fraud and eight counts of aggravated identity theft. The indictment alleged that, between May 2008 and June 2009, Horning, then employed at a PHS pharmacy, devised a scheme to defraud PHS by causing fraudulent prescription reimbursements checks to be issued to her friends and relatives who turned the proceeds over to Horning. According to the indictment, Horning used the names of legitimate PHS customers and their identification information to create the fraudulent checks.

It further alleges that Horning used this scheme to generate 17 fraudulent checks in the aggregate amount of $27,129.63 and obtained $24,679.48 in proceeds from 15 checks that were cashed. United States Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said that, on July 26, 2010, Horning entered a guilty plea to a two-count information charging her with (1) aggravated identity theft, and (2) health care fraud resulting in a loss of $24,679.48 under a plea agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office. In her plea agreement, Horning admitted that she used the PHS computer database to create 17 fraudulent prescription reimbursement checks, and that she used the names and identification information of PHS members to generate the checks. Horning further admitted that, for each fraudulent check she generated, she changed the payee name and address to a name and address of her choosing and caused the checks to be mailed to the individual she identified.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Cynthia L. Weisman

Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office, New Mexico

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2 comments to “NM: Former PHS employee sentenced to prison in medical ID theft/fraud scheme”

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  1. Anonymous - January 26, 2011

    Your headline would seem to imply malfeasance on the part of Public Health Service (PHS). I notice you often use local abbreviations of organizations that people outside that local area would not be expected to recognize.

    • Anonymous - January 26, 2011

      Thanks for the point about abbreviations. I try to also include a state or country abbreviation because spelling out organization names in a headline is often unwieldy. I’ll keep that in mind in the future, though, and try to spell things out.

      Re implying malfeasance: when a breach is an insider breach, it may not be malfeasance on the entity’s part, but it may (or may not) indicate a lack of adequate security and access controls, audits, supervision, etc. It’s pretty common among journalists and bloggers who cover breaches to include the entity’s name in the headline. As a member of the public, if you saw a headline that indicated that an employee of a company you did business with was involved in wrong-doing of this kind, would you be more likely to read the story to find out if it affects you? I would guess that you would.

      Thanks for your feedback.

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