SLED arrests DHHS employee in connection with data breach

Christopher Lykes
Christopher Lykes
From left: SLED Director Mark Keel, SCDHHS Director Tony Keck, SC Inspector General Jim Martin and Governor Nikki Haley
From left: SLED Director Mark Keel, SCDHHS Director Tony Keck, SC Inspector General Jim Martin and Governor Nikki Haley

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The personal information of more than 228,000 Medicaid recipients in South Carolina has been stolen by a former state Department of Health and Human Services employee, according to DHHS and the State Law Enforcement Division.

SLED says 36-year-old Christopher Lykes was able to make off with 228,435 Medicaid recipients' personal information by emailing the information to his personal Yahoo email account.

The information contained names, addresses, and Social Security numbers -- information the Lykes had access to and the agency trusted him with.

Most of the people impacted by the security breach live in Richland, Lexington, Barnwell, Orangeburg, Allendale, and Bamberg counties.

Lykes has been charged with five counts of Medically Indigent Act confidentiality violations and one count of disclosure of confidential information.

Lykes, a resident of Swansea, is active in politics. He is listed as the Lexington County Democrat Party's executive committee. A 2011 online report shows that Lykes was one of two members of the statewide Democrat Party, serving as an executive committeeman.

Kathryn Hensley, a representative of the Lexington Democratic Party, says Lykes is not currently an officer of the county party, but said he had been one of the Lexington members on the state executive committee.

DHHS Director Tony Keck says the investigation started in January and ended three weeks ago. They found out about the scheme after conducting employee performance reviews.

"The information was not readily available, but it was available to him through a normal reporting process and that's where we've identified a security lapse that the department was not sufficiently requiring employees to justify their need for that information," Keck said. "That is fairly easy lapse to close and we've done that."

Keck says he called Lykes in on April 10 and fired him, then turned the information over to SLED.

SLED has Lykes' home computer and is working to track down where the information went and hopefully why this employee wanted it in the first place.

"Agents have now taken possession of his work computer and also the employee's personal computer. At this time, we know of at least one other party who has received data from this former employee and this transfer is part of this ongoing investigation," SLED Director Mark Keel said.

SLED served a search warrant on Yahoo, asking for Lykes' email records. Investigators said they're trying to figure out where the Medicaid information went and who else may be involved.

Investigators said Lykes could also face federal charges in connection to the case. SLED continues investigating and working to determine a motive in the case.

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