Lufkin woman pleads guilty to HIPAA violations

Joneshia Cranford (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Joneshia Cranford (Source: Angelina County Jail)

From the US Attorney's Office

LUFKIN, TX - A 33-year-old Lufkin, Texas woman has pleaded guilty to federal violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.

Joneshia Cranford pleaded guilty on July 20, 2012, to wrongful disclosure of individually identifiable health information before U.S. Magistrate Judge Zack Hawthorn.

According to information presented in court, from 2005 to 2008, Cranford, an employee of a Lufkin-area health care provider, stole protected health information, including patient names, dates of birth, social security numbers, Medicare numbers, and Medicaid numbers and sold the information to Shavator Albro, 35, and Francis "Frank" Ibiok, 28, both of Houston.  Cranford's actions are a criminal violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Cranford faces up to 10 years in federal prison.  A sentencing date has not been set.  Albro and Ibiok have pleaded guilty to health care fraud and identity theft offences and face up to 15 years in federal prison.

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and the Texas Office of the Attorney General – Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (OAG-MFCU).  This case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel C. Kummerfeld.

"Everybody recognizes that healthcare costs need to be kept as reasonable as possible. And, prosecuting instances of fraud helps to keep those costs reasonable," said Alan Jackson, Criminal Chief of the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Texas.

According to Jackson, Cranford is currently undergoing a pre-sentence report, which could take up to 120 days to complete. As a part of Cranford's plea agreement, the judge could accept a recommended five year probation sentence.  The agreement would also require Cranford to spend 60 days in prison during her first year of probation. She will receive credit for jail time she has already served.

Cranford was arrested in 2006 on a charge of third-degree possession of a controlled substance. That case was later dismissed.

Copyright 2012 KTRE. All rights reserved.