A former UCLA Medical Center employee was indicted on charges that she accessed the records of dozens of high-profile patients and selling the information to a media outlet, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The indictment follows revelations of privacy breaches involving at least 61 patients at the University of California, Los Angeles’ hospitals, including actress Farrah Fawcett, singer Britney Spears and California first lady Maria Shriver.
The indictment accuses Lawanda Jackson, 49, of one count of illegally obtaining individually identifiable health information for commercial advantage. Under seal since April 9, the indictment was made public Tuesday.
Jackson is accused of receiving at least $4,600 from the unidentified media outlet in exchange for providing the private medical information. The indictment also did not identify the celebrities whose records were allegedly accessed.
The indictment said the media outlet paid Jackson by writing checks to her husband.
UCLA Hospital System CEO and Interim Vice Chancellor Dr. David T. Feinberg said in a statement that he welcomes the U.S. attorney’s investigation.
“We are deeply troubled that a former employee may have illegally received payments from a news organization in exchange for providing personal medical information,” Feinberg said. “Meanwhile, we continue to take steps to improve our staff training and information systems to further strengthen the confidentiality of patient records.”
A telephone message seeking comment was left at the number of a Lawanda Jackson listed in the Los Angeles area. The call was not immediately returned.
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times reported that Jackson said she was just “being nosy.” She acknowledged making a “mistake” but denied giving out the information or being paid for it.
“I didn’t leak anything or anything like that,” she said. “It wasn’t for money or anything. It was just looking.”
Representatives for Fawcett told the Times they believe information about her cancer treatment was leaked to the National Enquirer. Cameron Stracher, senior media counsel for Enquirer parent American Media Inc., refused comment to the paper. An after-hours call by The Associated Press to Stracher was not immediately returned.
Jackson could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Her arraignment was scheduled for June 9.
In March, the medical center’s human resources director said a number of employees were to be fired and others faced discipline for snooping into Spears’ records.