Former Oregon Health Authority staffer Marzieh Abedin was charged Tuesday by a grand jury in Marion County with allegedly embezzling nearly $ 1.5 million in federal COVID-19 funds to support state vaccination effort.
A statement of arrest warrant from the Oregon Department of Justice’s agent investigating the case said Abedin was hired by the OHA to process invoices submitted by external vendors who provided vaccination-related services. OHA had also hired Deloitte Consulting to assist with the management of payments.
In November, Deloitte discovered that payments to one supplier, Leone Catering, lacked supporting documentation. The invoices were related to catering services at major vaccination events, but events had not taken place at places and dates on the invoices, the statement said.
A subsequent review by the OHA revealed yet another fraudulent payment to another, legitimate firm, T-Bev, located in Eugene. Abedin had reportedly submitted an invoice from this company for $ 3,874, but with a false address. After the 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 statement said Abedin was involved in a complex scheme involving multiple stolen identities, forgeries, forged documents, the creation of two fake internet domains, a fake business registration and the opening of bank accounts under a stolen identity using a fake driver’s license.
The statement said she registered a fake company, Leone Catering, with the Secretary of State at her home address. Between July 16 and September 22, 2021, Abedin reportedly submitted 35 fraudulent invoices for incidents that had not occurred, submitting fake emails from other Deloitte and OHA employees involved in the approval process. The OHA eventually deposited $ 1,492,846 into the fake company’s bank account, which Abedin transferred to another account opened under a stolen identity.
The Department of Justice was able to recover $ 1,485,899 from accounts related to Leone Catering, and T-Bev agreed to return the $ 3,874 they had received, the statement said.
The OHA later dismissed Abedin. During this process, the OHA said that Abedin informed them that she had returned to the country that issued her passport, which was not identified in the statement. The DOJ agent was able to confirm that she no longer lives at her Portland address and that she had purchased airline tickets from an airline serving that region and later made purchases at two airports.
The grand jury charged Abedin with 21 counts of theft, forgery, identity theft, aggravated theft, aggravated identity theft, computer crime and misconduct. The DOJ has requested an arrest warrant.
The OHA referred questions back to the DOJ.
“Fortunately, this scam was caught by the OHA and was immediately referred to our Criminal Justice team,” State Attorney Ellen Rosenblum said in a press release. “We were able to quickly track the money through various bank accounts and get almost everything back. Let this be a warning to anyone who wants to personally benefit from a public health emergency – no one, neither government employees nor otherwise, is above the law. “