A 43-year-old man in Georgia accused an “acquaintance” who worked at a nearby hospital of violating federal privacy laws by emailing graphic photos of patients, according to court filings.
But it was all a lie, prosecutors say.
Jeffrey Parker pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements after an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation found “inconsistencies” in his story during an interview last year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia said Wednesday in a news release.
He now faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine as well as restitution, court filings show. A sentencing date has not been set.
“Jeffrey Parker tried to portray himself as a ‘whistleblower’ while attempting to frame a former acquaintance,” U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine said in the release. “This fake complaint not only caused potential harm for an innocent victim, but it also unnecessarily diverted resources from federal investigators whose diligent work shredded his web of lies.”
Parker contacted the FBI in October 2019 with a whistleblower complaint against a woman who worked at a hospital in Savannah, according to court filings.
The woman and the hospital are not identified, but Fox 28 described her as a “former lover.”
“Court testimony referred to a ‘relationship’ between Parker and the acquaintance,” spokesperson Barry L. Paschal for the Southern District confirmed in an email to McClatchy News.
Parker accused the woman of violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, which prevents the disclosure of sensitive patient information without their consent.
“The alleged violation involved the transmission of graphic photographs, including, for example, a transmission that occurred Oct. 16, 2019, of gunshot victims who had been treated at Hospital 1 at some point previously,” court filings state.
Parker used fake email addresses with real people’s names to back up these allegations in messages sent to the hospital, the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI, prosecutors said.
He also told the FBI he was receiving threatening messages as retaliation, according to court filings.
“I am actually a bit frightened now for my safety,” he reportedly said.
Prosecutors said the FBI immediately acted to protect him and further investigate his claims. But when an agent probed him about inconsistencies in his story during an interview at the FBI field office in Savannah, Parker folded.
He copped to the fake email addresses and admitted to sending the threats to himself, court filings state.
Prosecutors charged Parker with making false statements to the FBI earlier this year. He was arraigned before a federal judge on Jan. 16 and issued a $20,000 appearance bond, court filings show.
Parker was also released with certain stipulations, including submitting to mental health treatment and having no contact with the victim.
The judge accepted his plea agreement Wednesday.