L.A. fire official: 'We're very upset' about records security breach
Los Angeles Fire Department officials said Thursday they are “very upset” that confidential personal information was illegally obtained from patients who rode city ambulances but said dozens of other agencies were also affected.
One day after The Times reported that the city had sent letters to 26 patients notifying them of the breach, with department officials advising patients who think they may have been victimized to call (877) 264-9622. That number was set up by Florida-based Intermedix, a subsidiary of Advanced Data Processing Inc., the company hired by the Fire Department to handle ambulance billing duties.
"We're very upset that this happened. We're as upset as anyone else," Chief Deputy Daren Palacios said at a news conference.
Palacios said the breach affected 100 government agencies and is being investigated by both the Internal Revenue Service and the Tampa Police Department.
Disclosing patient information is a violation of federal law. So far, 26 former patients have been informed they were "adversely impacted" by the breach, which was caused by a billing company employee. The company is trying to determine whether an additional 900 users of city ambulances were also victimized in Los Angeles, Palacios said.Lisa MacKenzie, spokeswoman for Advanced Data Processing, Inc., said the employee who illegally accessed the patient information was involved with a "very large" identity theft ring in Florida. That person has already admitted wrongdoing and was fired but has not yet been charged, she said.
"This person illegally accessed records ... pulled those records and they ended up in the hands of this fraud ring," she said.
MacKenzie said her client is not revealing the number of government agencies that have been affected by the security breach. But she noted that the cities of Berkeley, El Centro and Corona were also affected.
The data accessed in the incident included names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers. Some of the information was used to fill out fraudulent tax returns, part of a much larger scheme to obtain illegal refunds.
“It’s a huge crime and it was not just targeting Intermedix," MacKenzie added. "It was targeting other organizations and individuals as well."
-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall
Photo: An LAFD paramedic on skid row in downtown L.A. in 2009. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times