Two hospital workers have been accused of preying on patients at a Virginia hospital by stealing the patients’ identities in order to claim their tax refunds.
Festus Ighalo and Emmanuel Effiong, both former employees at Sentara Hospital in eastern Virginia, were named in an indictment filed last week and charged with 48 counts of wrongdoing, including charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to defraud the government.
According to the indictment, the pair allegedly accessed patient records and, along with other unnamed accomplices, filed false income tax returns in order to get refunds totaling approximately $400,000. The group reportedly received more than $116,000 before they were caught.
Last December the Government Accountability Office reported an alarming rise in tax refund identity thefts, including nearly 650,000 incidents of identity theft involving tax fraud from January to September 2012, nearly triple the rate from the same time period in 2011.
The dollar volume of fraudulent refunds is not known, according to the GAO. Financial institutions recognized and returned to the IRS $754 million in tax refunds they found suspicious between January and Sept. 30, 2012. The GAO said that figure is only a fraction of the total amount of refund fraud.
ABC News’ Susanna Kim contributed to this report.