By MICHELLE ZENAROSA
WASHINGTON (Oct. 29, 2008)—A former Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene employee was convicted Wednesday for diverting almost $1.8 million from the state's Kidney Disease Program.
The state-funded program helps make sure state residents with end-stage kidney disease, who are struggling to pay extraordinary medical bills, receive financial aid.
Donna M. Lam, a former DHMH claims processor, was convicted in a trial before Baltimore City Circuit Judge Sylvester B. Cox Jr.
For the last decade, some kidney patients' funds may have been cut because of a complex theft scheme created by Lam and her unemployed husband, Wilson Lam, who was not included in his wife's trial.
Since 1997, Lam, 50, who had been working for the department since 1980, filed 917 fake claims on 14 fictitious health provider accounts created by the couple, according to the office of Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler.
To collect the state checks, the couple opened numerous bank accounts and post office boxes in Maryland under the names of the fictitious providers.
The Lams spent the stolen money on real estate, home improvements, motor vehicles and money gifts to their family members, said the attorney general.
"In those rare instances where fraudulent activities occur within our Department, DHMH supports all efforts to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. This is an important conviction and one that I am glad has been successfully resolved. We can now put this behind us and move forward," DHMH officials said in a statement Wednesday.
The DHMH declined further comment.
First Mariner Bank employees were the first to raise suspicions to state officials when they questioned frequent ATM transactions from a business account in the name of "Donna M. Law d/b/a/ Long Point Medical Services." After a full investigation was conducted by the state, 13 other fictitious names were discovered.
"I want to thank First Mariner Bank and its CEO Ed Hale for detecting and then reporting suspicious activity," Gansler said in a news release Wednesday. "The good work of the bank and its employees enabled my office and other agencies to unravel the full extent of Lam's theft scheme and protect the state's interests."
Sentencing for Lam is scheduled for Feb. 2009.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.