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Transient sought in theft of laptops with 729,000 patients' records

October 22, 2013|By Richard Winton
  • Christopher Brown is wanted in the theft of two laptops containing data on 729,000 patients.
Christopher Brown is wanted in the theft of two laptops containing data… (Alhambra Police Department )

Alhambra police have issued an arrest warrant for a transient detectives believe stole two laptops from a hospital group's administration building that contained information on 729,000 patients.

Sgt. Jerry Johnson said the department is searching for Christopher Lee Brown, 36, also is known as Allen Marcous, in connection with the Oct. 12 laptop thefts.

Brown is alleged to have broken into a sixth-floor office on a medical campus in Alhambra. Johnson said that a friend of Brown's worked at the facility and that he was familiar with the building.

The laptops contain data from patients treated at San Gabriel Valley-based AHMC hospitals: Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park, Monterey Park Hospital, Greater El Monte Community Hospital in South El Monte, Whittier Hospital Medical Center, San Gabriel Valley Medical Center and Anaheim Regional Medical Center.

The laptops were taken from a video-monitored office that is "patrolled by security."

Under federal law, hospitals are required to report potential medical data breaches. The breach of 729,000 files would rank as the 11th largest in the nation, according to data on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. In California, two other medical groups have had larger data compromises.

Gary Hopkins, a spokesman for AHMC, said the two laptops are password-protected. He said AHMC officials called Alhambra police as soon as the theft was discovered Oct. 14. Security video showed that the theft occurred Oct. 12.

According to the hospital group, the computers contained data that included patients' names, Medicare and insurance identification numbers, diagnosis and procedure codes and payment records. A small number of the files contained patients' Social Security numbers, officials said.

There was no evidence the information was accessed or used, but that cannot be ruled out, AHMC Healthcare Inc. officials said in a statement.

"We regret any inconvenience or concern this incident may cause our patients," they said in the statement.

AHMC had already asked an auditing firm to perform a security risk assessment and it was following the recommendations, officials said. Administrators will now expedite a policy of encrypting all laptops, they said.

Hospital officials said affected patients may want to place fraud alerts on their credit files and order credit agencies to look for fraudulent activity.

Hopkins said patients with concerns or questions may contact AHMC at (855) 977-6678.


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