Columbia, SC (WLTX) - State Law Enforcement Division agents have arrested a man they say transferred thousands of confidential state Medicaid records to his personal email account.
Christopher Lykes, 36, of Swansea is charged with five counts of medically indigent act confidentiality violation and one count of disclosure of confidential information.
Agents say their investigation began on April 10, when the Department of Health and Human Services contacted them. The agency revealed Thursday that 228,435 Medicaid records were taken since January.
The documents included names, phone numbers, addresses, birth dates, Medicaid ID numbers and in some cases Social Security numbers.
According to SLED, at least one other party received this data from Lykes. It has not been made public yet who this third party was.
SLED Chief Mark Keel says his agency has taken the personal and work computers used. He also says they have issued a search warrant to Yahoo! to see if the information was sent to anyone else.
Due to the records release, the state is sending letters to affected beneficiaries. They've also set up a helpline that people can call.MORE: Details of Information Release & How to Receive Help
DHHS Director Tony Keck says information was transferred about 17 times in three months.
"The agency certainly feels betrayed by this individual a colleague of ours and it's very disappointing," said Keck. He says he has experience with this type of situation from his previous job in Louisiana.
He says the problem impacts about 20 percent of their service population and that it's concentrated in Richland, Lexington, Orangeburg, Bamberg, Barnwell and Allendale Counties.
Keck says they noticed a problem as them implemented their performance review process.
"Authorizations of services had started taking longer and longer we started to investigate it as to why that was and that led us down this path," said Keck.
"It is a situation where we have seen an employee completely abuse the information that they have and use it for personal gain and that is probably the most despicable things we can ever expect to happen in state government," said Gov. Nikki Haley about the situation.
Haley says the Inspector General has been called in to assess processes at DHHS and other agencies to make sure this doesn't happen again. DHHS says it has hired an external IT security firm to perform an external risk assessment of its data and systems security.
In looking into this situation, News 19 discovered a connection between Lykes and two Richland County lawmakers, Sen. Joel Lourie and Sen. Darrell Jackson.
"Mr. Lykes was an independent contractor with some of the insurance carriers Senators Lourie and Jackson represent. When they were made aware of his actions his contracts were terminated immediately. He was not employed by either senator's companies," they said in a statement.
Lykes has also served as an executive committeeman of the Lexington County Democratic Party.
Lykes was booked at the Richland County Detention Center. His bond was set at $100,000.