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Defendant sentenced to maximum for theft of patient records

Posted on November 04, 2010 3:00 AM EST

A defendant appeared in federal court for his sentencing hearing having already pled guilty to an indictment alleging the theft of patient records from Jackson Memorial Hospital. The defendant, elderly and infirm, sat in a wheel chair with his Miami criminal attorney at his side when the sentence was imposed by a United States District Court judge. The judge sentenced Ruben Rodriguez to the maximum sentence of 11 years despite his age and medical conditions. His defense lawyer argued for a sentence of 6 years, while government prosecutors asked for a 12 year sentence. The judge, unmoved by the defense's arguments, sentenced the defendant to maximum penalties under the law.

The indictment alleged that the defendant stole records belonging to more than 3,000 patients and sold the records to third parties. According to the pre-sentence investigation, Rodriguez obtained the names, addresses, phone numbers and medical records of patients and allegedly sold them to personal injury lawyers. The defendant would a pay a hospital employee $1,000 a month in exchange for records belonging to slip and fall, car accident, and stabbing and shooting patients. The employee received a total of about $27,000 between 2008 and 2009. The employee received a 10 month prison sentence for her involvement in the theft. The FBI is continuing to focus on Miami-Dade lawyers who received the records.

Rodriguez and his wife, who was also involved to a lesser extent, were charged with aggravated identity theft and conspiracy. The defendant's wife was prepared to plead guilty earlier in the year to her involvement in the theft of the records, but the judge refused to accept the plea. As in all plea agreements in both state and federal court, a judge can refuse to accept a plea offer if he or she does not think the facts merit a particular sentence. The employee received a minimal sentence because she cooperated in the prosecution of the husband and wife. She undoubtedly received a 5K from the government which allowed the court to deviate from the sentencing guidelines.

Another fact was less than helpful for the defendant at his sentencing hearing. Rodriguez was originally granted bail at his initial appearance and bond hearing. At some point in the case, the defendant was allegedly involved in witness tampering and had his bond revoked for obstructing justice. The judge who handed down the sentence said that the defendant acted out of greed and obtained money at the expense of vulnerable victims. Included in the prison sentence was a $100,000 fine. The real target of the investigations are the lawyers that paid Rodriguez hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks in exchange for the information.

Theft of Patients' Records Nets the Max in Prison, The Miami Herald.com, October 26, 2010.
Categories: Federal Crimes