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HIPAA violations could land medical supplier jail time

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A New York medical supplier could go to jail for 10 years for wrongfully disclosing private patient information and submitting fraudulent Medicare claims in order to buy a multi-million dollar home and fund a pension plan and investment brokerage account worth $2 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Eastern District New York office.

In all, the woman, Helen Michel of Old Brookville, used the alias Dr. Elene Allonce and schemed Medicare for $10.7 million for four and a half years. Her conviction, announced by federal officials in a release Aug. 15, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and fines up to $250,000 per count.

Michel stole private patient information from various nursing homes on Long Island and then submitted thousands of fraudulent claims to Medicare, according to officials. The claims sought payment for services and equipment that were never provided by the defendant’s company, Medical Solutions Management, Inc., of Hicksville, New York.

The case represents one of the first criminal prosecutions in the nation for wrongful disclosure of patient information under HIPAA.

“To this defendant, the elderly were not patients to be helped, but pawns to be exploited for personal gain. Invasion of patient privacy and fraud against the health care program that the elderly depend upon are intolerable,” said United States Attorney Loretta E. Lynch. “Let [the] verdict stand as a warning to all that we will tenaciously investigate violators, protect patient rights and vindicate the hard-earned support taxpayers provide the Medicare program.”

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