U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew sentenced Shanakai Benton, yesterday, to three years in federal prison for wrongful disclosure of individual identifiable health information and wire fraud. As part of her sentence, the Court also entered a money judgment in the amunt of $77,239, the proceeds of the wire fraud. Benton pleaded guilty on May 2, 2016.
According to court documents, Benton was an employee at Tampa General Hospital (TGH) and had access to the personal information of thousands of patients. She regularly received training regarding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which prevents the unauthorized disclosure of personal health information. Despite her training, between June 2011 and December 2012, Benton illegally accessed the personal information of more than 600 TGH patients. Benton and her accomplices then used that information to file at least 29 false tax returns seeking refunds totaling $226,000.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, and the Tampa Police Department. It was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Timothy Loper.