It was an insurance company that came up with some suspicious claims. It turns out they were getting bills from a lab that didn't exist. The patients, though, were real. In fact, they were treated at Cedars-Sinai between 2005 and 2007. Now those patients are getting an apology.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is a trusted institution. Like most hospitals, it handles an avalanche of paperwork and personal data. Consumers expect it to be secure.
Cedars had no clue about this breach. James Allen Wilson worked in the workers compensation accounts department. For two years he allegedly stole data and took it home. He reportedly set up a fake laboratory company and billed patients' insurance companies for fake services.
Wilson faces 25 counts of theft, perjury, unlawful computer access and fraud. The case is expected to grow as investigators gather more information.
The District Attorney's office was tipped off by one of 100 insurance carriers that work with Cedars. A red flag led to a search of Wilson's home.
Investigators found records for more than a thousand patients. Cedars officials are not commenting on the case.
According to the Los Angeles Times, letters have gone out to those patients. The chief financial officer states: "We are deeply concerned and troubled about any privacy breach, and expect that you will feel similarly."
But unlike other high-profile cases involving illegal access to files, the hospital said that this "privacy breach involved an individual illegally using information that he had legitimate access to as part of his job."
The patients are advised to check their credit history to see if Wilson stole their identity and rang up charges. Some consumers do it already.
It's difficult to monitor employees who have clearance, according to one computer specialist.
"How would you know if someone took home data? You have to base on your professional discipline and you can't do that," said Cuong Ha, computer specialist.
Wilson is behind bars now. His next hearing is on January 22, 2009. His bail is set at $895,000.
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