San Diego man receives prison sentence in COVID-19 fraud case

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A San Diego resident in federal court received a three-year prison sentence Friday in connection with submitting false claims for pandemic unemployment insurance benefits and will surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons on Dec. 4, according to the court ruling.

After completing his sentence, Matthew Lombardo, 54, will be on three years’ supervised release, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Lombardo, who is currently free on bond, will also have to pay restitution.

In July 2021, Lombardo and other defendants were charged in two separate indictments with submitting fraudulent claims to California’s Employment Development Department, which administers unemployment benefits for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The indictment alleged that Lombardo worked as a patient service representative at a hospital that federal officials identified only as S.H. However, Scripps Health confirmed that Lombardo did work for the healthcare system and was fired in April 2021.

According to the indictment, Lombardo shared the names, dates of birth, addresses, Social Security numbers and other identifying information of patients with his co-defendants. Also charged in that indictment are Vista residents Konrad Piekos, Ryan David Genetti and Dobrila “Bebe” Milosavljevic. In the other case, five defendants — including Genetti — are accused of filing 108 separate claims to EDD, which paid out more than $1.6 million collectively.

Besides Genetti, the defendants in that case are Lindsay Renee Henning, of La Mesa; Garret Carl Tuggle, of San Diego; Salvatore Compilati, of La Mesa; and Juan Landon of Mesa, Arizona.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Genetti and Piekos were recently sentenced to prison terms. Sentences for both men were enhanced due to Genetti’s prior record, while Piekos’ case involved weapon and drug charges.

A San Diego Union-Tribune article from 2021 reported that Lombardo was accused of sending dozens of names to Piekos. In turn, Piekos and his associates filed employment claims and directed funds to addresses he controlled, according to the criminal complaint. In one text message exchange, Lombardo wrote, “This guy died a few hours ago. How many names do we need? I’ll check for more just got here.”

Piekos responded, “Find me one who is still alive…lol (laughing out loud).”

Lombardo wrote, “Lol ok lots of those. We want old people?”

“No, I mean someone 55 or younger who is on their way out… maybe a couple days left or something,” Piekos responded.

Last October, Lombardo pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and using confidential health care information for personal gain, and two counts of aggravated identity theft. In a sentencing recommendation, U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman stated that Lombardo’s sentence “must adequately deter other individuals from using the personal data of hospital patients for nefarious purposes.”

“What makes this case even more disturbing and sets it apart from countless other pandemic-related fraud cases is that (Lombardo) and his co- defendants not only exploited the (unemployment insurance) program but (Lombardo), a trusted hospital employee, used his position and unfettered access to steal and misuse the identities of multiple hospital patients who submitted themselves for care,” according to Grossman’s office. Defense attorney Robert L. Swain on Friday said Lombardo’s family and friends — some of them present in the courtroom — “helped him on the road to sobriety.”

Swain in a sentencing memorandum requested leniency for his client, who has struggled with opioid addiction related to a 2008 car accident.

Lombardo also suffered serious injuries after being hit by a car in November. “Mr. Lombardo has the desire to reform, go back to his partner and be a contributing member of the community,” according to the memorandum. “Neither he, nor society, is better off locking him in prison for more than three years.”

Before the sentencing, Lombardo told U.S. Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo that he was “sorry about what happened.”

“I understand the gravity of the situation,” he added.

Bencivengo said Lombardo’s actions were “a very serious offense,” primarily because of the harm they caused families in “dire situations” and in need of pandemic assistance.

Bencivengo said she was discomforted by the “callous” text message regarding patients 55 or younger “being on their way out.”

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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