Fired Scripps Health employee is accused of stealing patient data for unemployment claims

Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, pictured in March, is one of Scripps Health's medical facilities.
Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, pictured in March, is one of Scripps Health’s medical facilities in San Diego County.
(Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

A former employee of Scripps Health is accused of stealing the personal information of dozens of patients as part of a scheme to file fraudulent pandemic-related unemployment claims in their names, according to a federal complaint unsealed this month.

Matthew Lombardo is one of seven people charged in two separate investigations surrounding the use of stolen identities to file pandemic employment assistance under the CARES Act, the U.S. attorney’s office announced.

Lombardo, 52, of San Diego, was a patient financial service representative at Scripps Health, a job that included meeting with patients to obtain their personal identifying information — such as birth date, employment and reason for seeking medical care — as well as verifying insurance coverage, according to an affidavit filed with the complaint.

According to a special agent with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, Lombardo had been in the position for about a year and a half when he was recruited last August into a scheme run by Konrad Piekos and others.

Lombardo is accused of sending at least dozens of names to Piekos, who would then, with his associates, file employment claims and direct the funds to addresses he controlled, according to the complaint.

Lombardo: “This guy died a few hours ago. How many names do we need? I’ll check for more just got here”
Piekos: “... Find me one who is still”
Lombardo: “Lol ok lots of those. We want old people?”
Piekos: “no, I mean someone 55 or younger who is on their way out... maybe a couple days left or something”

In one text message, according to the complaint, Lombardo sent the information of a patient, saying, “This guy died a few hours ago. How many names do we need? I’ll check for more, just got here.”

According to the complaint, Piekos responded that his associate would put that name in “asap” and to “find me one who is still alive ... lol.”

“Lol ok lots of those. We want old people?” Lombardo allegedly answered. The complaint says Piekos then directed him to find “someone 55 or younger who is on their way out ... maybe a couple days left or something.”

The special agent said in his affidavit that the defendants likely knew that once people die, they are quickly entered into a database that makes them ineligible for unemployment benefits.

In another text string, Lombardo allegedly found a patient who was listed as homeless who “mite be a good one.”

In dozens of cases, Lombardo is accused of sending screenshots of files of pregnant patients, including their obstetrician’s name, delivery date and spouse’s information.

Agents later interviewed some of the patients, who confirmed they had been treated at Scripps Health but denied ever putting in a claim for unemployment. The complaint does not name specific facilities. Scripps runs medical facilities throughout San Diego County, including Scripps Memorial and Scripps Green hospitals in La Jolla.

Scripps Health said in a statement that Lombardo was a patient services specialist on an as-needed basis beginning in May 2019.

“He was terminated on April 14, 2021, for cause,” the statement reads. “Scripps takes its responsibility for protecting patient privacy very seriously and is cooperating with the government investigation.”

Authorities did not disclose how much money the alleged scheme derived from benefits. However, a separate scheme involving four defendants paid out more than $1.6 million in fraudulent claims, according to court records. Some of those defendants also are accused of running a drug distribution ring.

The investigation sprang out of a traffic stop. The Sheriff’s Department said Piekos was pulled over in October for driving without a license plate. A deputy noticed an assault rifle, which was unregistered, in plain view, and a search later turned up several guns, loaded magazines and about $40,000 in cash.

That led to a search of his two Vista homes — one occupied by him and another where his two alleged associates lived — where authorities found more guns, heroin and fentanyl, according to court records. Search warrants for several cellphones seized during the searches yielded text messages with Lombardo spelling out the alleged unemployment scheme, the complaint states.

Piekos, Lombardo and two others have been charged with multiple counts, including aggravated identity theft and wire fraud conspiracy. Piekos also is charged with gun and drug offenses in a separate case.

— La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report.