Medical center employee guilty of identity theft

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Fridley woman, who was an employee at Hennepin County Medical Center, pleaded guilty to fraudulently using patients’ credit cards, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.

Elizabeth Tavarez, 35, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of identity theft in a scheme from Oct. 19, 2015 to Jan. 11, 2016. Tavarez will be sentenced on Nov. 14 and is expected to receive three years’ probation with no more than 90 days in the county workhouse. In addition, the county attorney’s office will be asking that Tavarez pay restitution, although the exact amount has not been determined.

According to the criminal complaint, Tavarez worked in the Hennepin County Medical Center as a finance counselor. As part of her job, she collected co-payments from patients and entered them into the medical center’s billing system. When the patients paid in cash, Tavarez would keep it and use the cash for her own personal use. She would void the cash payment in the Hennepin County Medical Center billing system and subsequently charge another patient’s credit card to cover her theft.

Investigators spoke to three patients who denied knowing the person whose co-payments were made through their credit cards, the complaint states. Instead, they could say that they had made credit card payments for their own co-payments in the past, so their credit card information was in the billing system.

Criminal Complaint (PDF)