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Otolaryngology Associates of Central Jersey is alerting patients to a breach of their protected health information, following a burglary at an off-site storage facility in East Brunswick, NJ.
The thieves took 13 boxes of paper medical records from the facility, which included information such as names, addresses, health insurance account numbers, birth dates, dates of military service, and the names of treating physicians. A limited number of driver’s license numbers and Social Security numbers were also included in the stolen records.
The burglary was quickly identified and law enforcement was notified. An internal investigation was launched, and steps were taken to reduce the likelihood of similar breaches occurring in the future.
The medical records were being stored in accordance with state and federal laws, and related to past patients that had received treatment at either of Otolaryngology Associates of Central Jersey’s two facilities in East Brunswick and Franklin townships. All affected individuals have now been notified of the breach.
While the perpetrators of many burglaries are never caught, a suspect is now in custody. That individual, Fernando Rios, 33, of Sayreville, was arrested in connection with the burglary after law enforcement received a tip off after Rios attempted to sell the records. The person who Rios offered the records to contacted the U.S Department of Homeland Security and the records were handed over.
Since the stolen records were promptly recovered, Otolaryngology Associates of Central Jersey believes the risk of patient data being used inappropriately is low.
Rios has been charged with second degree trafficking in personally identifiable information, second degree identity theft, and third-degree burglary. Rios faces a minimum jail term of 5 years.
The incident has been reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, but has yet to appear on the OCR breach portal. Mycentraljersey.com claims the boxes of files contained approximately 1,000 patient records.