Woman involved in hospital identity theft sentenced to 10 years

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A woman who pled guilty in an identity theft/tax refund scam involving Troy Regional Medical Center records has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Rhashema Deramus, 23, of Montgomery, pleaded guilty on Aug. 29, 2012 to theft of government money, fraudulent use of debit cards and aggravated identity theft in relation to filing fraudulent tax returns.

According to information provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, Deramus and her associates stole 881 identities, including names, dates of birth and social security numbers, from TRMC and then used the stolen information to file tax returns. Refunds were placed on pre-paid debit cards and Deramus, and others at her direction, took those cards and cashed them out at ATMs.

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Deramus admitted to the court that her sole source of income during that period was through illegally obtained tax refunds.

“Deramus was the mastermind behind this scheme which not only costs the U.S. Government, but also local retailers and businesses who negotiated the fraudulently obtained checks – over $1.5 million,” said Clayton Slay, resident agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service in Montgomery, in a statement issued Wednesday. “The biggest tragedy, though, are the approximately 7,000 victims whose lives have been turned upside down through the theft of their personal identifiers…”

TRMC told the court that Angeline Austin, a contract employee at the hospital, had access to patient information. Austin, who was sentenced earlier this year to 65 months in federal prison for her crimes, provided that patient information to Deramus.

In a statement released today, Troy Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Teresa Grimes said, “After two years of hard work and dedication, I would like to thank our staff, our community and the law enforcement officers who were involved in the investigation and resolution of our data theft crime.”

Police first tracked the crime ring down in March 2011 when law enforcement agents identified a vehicle associated with suspicious withdrawals from ATMs. During a traffic stop of that vehicle, Deramus and two of her associates were found to have 165 prepaid debit cards issued in other people’s names. Agents obtained a search warrant and found 276 more debit cards, computers and thousands of pieces of personal information belonging to other people in Deramus’ home.

Ultimately, it was found that that Deramus and her ring possessed at least 520 cards, on which $1,198,063 worth of fraudulently-obtained tax refunds had been placed.

One of the victims of the theft ring testified that he lost his defense contracting job making $100,000 a year as a result of financial problems from the theft and misuse of his personal information. The victim’s credit was impacted and his security clearance was suspended and later revoked. The victim now works at a fast food restaurant and teaches computer classes part-time at a technical college.

“This sentence shows the government’s commitment to stopping those criminals who attempt to profit from stealing people’s identity,” said U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr. in a statement. “In order to stop these scammers, we must all work together to protect the identities, to investigate those that steal the identities and to vigorously prosecute those scammers. This office will not let up on these thieves. We will continue to vigorous prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”