Des Moines, Iowa – A Des Moines man was sentenced today to 27 months in prison following his pleas of guilty to two counts of a federal indictment charging conspiracy to wrongfully obtain and disclose individually identifiable health information, and wrongfully obtaining individually identifiable health information.
According to court documents, Dustin James Ortiz, 49, conspired with a then employee of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Des Moines to obtain individually identifiable health information of an individual which were maintained by the VAMC. The records Ortiz sought to and did obtain pertained to the victim’s mental health conditions and medications. Ortiz obtained this information without authorization required by law. Ortiz then disclosed the records to a third party. Because the conduct involved the intent to transfer and use the health information for personal gain and malicious harm, it was a felony under federal law.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that requires standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.
In addition to the 27-month term of imprisonment, the Court ordered the payment of $2,000 in restitution, and a 3-year term of supervised release to follow the prison sentence.
“Our office is committed to giving real meaning to HIPAA’s right-to-privacy protections,” said United States Attorney Richard D. Westphal. “HIPAA-covered entities should continue to remind everyone that the privacy provisions of HIPAA are important and have significant consequences if violated.”
“Unlawfully obtaining and releasing veterans’ health records will not be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Gregory Billingsley with Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s Central Field Office. “This breaches the integrity of the VA healthcare system and is an egregious violation of privacy.”
The co-defendant, a former employee of the VAMC, is set for sentencing on August 4, 2022.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General investigated the case.