The Cleveland Veterans Affairs hospital is investigating whether employees snooped in serial killing suspect Anthony Sowell’s private medical records.

A spokeswoman for the Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center confirmed that an investigation was under way. It was unclear if it is an internal investigation or if federal VA authorities were called in.

Cleveland VA spokeswoman Ashley Trimble said she couldn’t answer any questions beyond that an investigation was taking place.

Sowell, who was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in early 1985, would have been eligible for medical care at the VA. It is unknown what, if any, medical or psychiatric care he received there or at VA clinics.

Sowell enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1978 and served eight years in North Carolina, California and Okinawa.

Sowell has been charged with killing five women, though more charges are expected. Eleven women were killed and their remains were found in and around his Cleveland home.

Patient records are private and an unauthorized access would violate the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA.

Personal health care information may be shared with some agencies, such as law enforcement, but the access is, for the most part, limited to medical personnel directly involved in the medical care.

Individuals who “knowingly” obtain or disclose individual health information could face a fine of up to $50,000 as well as imprisonment of up to one year, according to U.S. Department of Justice.

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Article courtesy of: Cleveland.com

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