PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A former Oregon Health Authority employee has been indicted 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.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports an arrest warrant affidavit from the Oregon Department of Justice agent who investigated the case said Marzieh 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 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. Authorities say 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 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 on Tuesday 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.