After a burglary at an off-site storage center in East Brunswick, NJ, Otolaryngology Associates of Central Jersey is making patients aware a breach of their protected health information.
The thieves removed 13 boxes of paper medical records from the center, which included data such as names, addresses, health insurance account details, birth dates, dates of military service and the identities of treating physicians. A limited number of driver’s license numbers and Social Security details were also included in the stolen information.
The burglary was quickly discovered and law enforcement was alerted. An internal inquiry was initiated and steps were taken to minimize the chance of similar breaches occurring going forward.
The medical records were being held in accordance with state and federal legislation, and related to past patients that had been treated at either of Otolaryngology Associates of Central Jersey’s two centers in East Brunswick and Franklin townships. All affected people have now been advised of the breach.
While the perpetrators of many burglaries are never apprehended, a suspect is now in custody. That person, Fernando Rios, 33, of Sayreville, was arrested in relation to the burglary after law enforcement received a tip off after Rios tried to sell the records. The person who Rios offered the records to got in touch with the U.S Department of Homeland Security and the private health information was handed over.
Since the stolen records were promptly found, Otolaryngology Associates of Central Jersey feels the risk of patient data being used inappropriately is minimal.
Rios has been charged with second degree trafficking in personally identifiable information, second degree identity theft and third-degree burglary. Rios faces a possible minimum jail term of 5 years.
The incident has been made known to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, but has yet to be oublished on the OCR breach portal. Mycentraljersey.com believes the boxes of files stored approximately 1,000 patient records.