Former Oregon Health Authority employee allegedly embezzled $1.5 million in COVID-19 vaccination funds – OregonLive


Hundreds of people stood in line outside a free COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Tektronix campus in Beaverton in December 2021. Therese Bottomly/The Oregonian
Former Oregon Health Authority employee Marzieh Abedin was indicted Tuesday by a Marion County grand jury for allegedly embezzling nearly $1.5 million in federal COVID-19 funds intended to support the state’s vaccination effort.
An arrest warrant affidavit from the Oregon Department of Justice agent who investigated the case said Abedin was hired by the OHA to process invoices submitted by outside vendors who provided services related to the vaccination effort. OHA had also hired Deloitte Consulting to assist with management of the payments.
In November, Deloitte discovered that payments to one vendor, Leone Catering, were missing supporting documentation. The invoices were related to catering services at large vaccination events, but events had not taken place at the locations and dates on the invoices, the affidavit said.
A subsequent review by OHA discovered another fraudulent payment to a different, legitimate company, T-Bev, located in Eugene. Abedin had allegedly submitted an invoice from that company for $3,874, but using a false address. After Department of Administrative Services noticed a discrepancy in the billing address, a check was issued to the company at its Eugene location, and the company deposited it.
The affidavit says Abedin engaged in a complex scheme involving multiple stolen identities, forgeries, falsified documents, the creation of two false Internet domains, a fake business registration and opening bank accounts under a stolen identity using a fake driver’s license.
The affidavit said she registered a sham company, Leone Catering, with the Secretary of State, at her home address. Between July 16 and Sept. 22, 2021, Abedin allegedly submitted 35 fraudulent invoices for events that had not occurred, and submitted false emails from other Deloitte and OHA employees involved in the approval process. OHA ultimately deposited $1,492,846 into the sham company’s bank account, which Abedin transferred into a second account opened under a stolen identity.
The Department of Justice was able to recover $1,485,899 from the accounts related to Leone Catering, and T-Bev agreed to return the $3,874 they had received, the affidavit said.
OHA later terminated Abedin. During that process, OHA said Abedin informed them she had returned to the country that issued her passport, which was not identified in the affidavit. The DOJ agent was able to confirm she no longer lives at her Portland address and that she had purchased plane tickets on an airline that serves the region in question and later made purchases at two airports.
The grand jury indicted Abedin on 21 counts of theft, forgery, identity theft, aggravated theft, aggravated identity theft, computer crime and official misconduct. The DOJ has requested an arrest warrant.
OHA referred questions back to the DOJ.
“Fortunately this fraud was caught by OHA and immediately referred to our Criminal Justice team,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a news release. “We were able to quickly follow the money through various bank accounts and recover nearly all of it. Let this be a warning to anyone looking to personally benefit from a public health emergency—no one, state employee or otherwise, is above the law.”
– Ted Sickinger; tsickinger@oregonian.com; 503-221-8505; @tedsickinger
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