A man who took part in a scheme to steal personal information from Scripps Health patients and use their identities to submit false claims for pandemic unemployment insurance benefits was sentenced Friday to nearly five years in federal prison.
Konrad Piekos, 45, is one of four people charged by San Diego federal prosecutors and the final defendant sentenced for submitting fraudulent claims to California’s Employment Development Department under the names of unwitting patients during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Piekos, who prosecutors said in sentencing papers was “at the center of” the scheme, utilized his associate, Matthew Lombardo, to obtain patient data. At the time, Lombardo was a Scripps Health patient service representative, granting him access to confidential patient data.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges the defendants sought the most vulnerable victims, including those who they believed were likely to die soon.
In one August 2020 text message exchange between Piekos and Lombardo, Lombardo texted the name, date of birth, Social Security number, and address of one patient and wrote, “this guy died a few hours ago, how many names do we need?”
Piekos responded, “find me one who is still alive…lol.”
Lombardo asked, “We want old people?” and Piekos replied, “someone 55 or younger who is on their way out.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alicia Williams said in court that though the ultimate financial loss involved — around $53,000 — was less than some other pandemic fraud cases, she said the facts of the case were “egregious” and “appalling.”
The prosecutor said, “When people submit their information for the purpose of getting health care, people that are seriously ill, they should not fear that someone’s going to take that information and use it in any way, shape, or form, but certainly not to apply for benefits that are intended for another group of people who are suffering.”
Piekos pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. His 57-month sentence included additional time for possession of heroin with intent to distribute.
Lombardo was sentenced earlier this year to three years in prison. Two other defendants, Ryan Genetti and Dobrila “Bebe” Milosavljevic, received terms of four years and a time served sentence, respectively.