HCMC employee admits to fraudulently using patients' credit cards

A Fridley, Minn. woman who worked at Hennepin County Medical Center pleaded guilty Tuesday to fraudulently using patients’ credit cards.

According to the criminal complaint, Elizabeth Tavarez, 35, worked as a financial counselor at HCMC, where she collected co-payments from patients and entered them into the medical center’s billing system. When patients paid their co-pays in cash, Tavarez would keep the money and use it for her own personal use. She was able to cover her theft by voiding the payment in HCMC's computer system and charging another patient's credit card for the co-pay amount. 

Investigators discovered the theft after interviewing three patients whose credit cards had been charged to cover other patient’s co-pays. The cardholders denied knowing the patients whose co-pays had been charged to their accounts.

HCMC billing records showed Tavarez made a number of transactions involving other cardholders and patients between October 19, 2015 and January 11, 2016.

Tavarez pleaded guilty to one count of identity theft. She will be sentenced on Nov. 14 and is expected to receive three years’ probation with no more than 90 days in the county workhouse.