by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:
DULUTH, Ga.,None - Channel 2 has learned thousands of potential victims of an alleged identity theft ring have something in common: they're all patients at Emory Healthcare's Orthopedic Clinic.
Emory sent a letter to 7,300 patients notifying them about a possible breach of patient information.
The letter states that personal information of 32 patients was stolen, but Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh discovered the problem could be much larger than that.
Channel 2 Action News first reported back in April when Duluth police executed a search warrant of a Gwinnett County home.
Investigators found stacks of fraudulent tax returns, stolen
checks and Social Security numbers. Among all of the paper were the hospital bills of 32 patients of Emory orthopedic clinic.
"They were patient documents which included things like
Social Security numbers, dates of birth," hospital spokesman Lance Skelly said.
Skelley said of the 32 bills,
nine patients have had fraudulent tax returns filed in their name.
The home investigators searched in April belonged to Annette Ford, 47. Since then, Ford pleaded guilty in federal court conspiracy and identity fraud.
Ford has no affiliation with Emory hospitals. Investigators are now looking into her connection to a former Emory employee.
"We are able to track when those documents were printed out, by whom at what time and what day, which printed they come off from, so we were able to track that down to a particular individual," Skelly said.
The hospital traced it all to one clerk. Sources close to the investigation tell Kavanaugh the same clerk printed off the bills of more than 3,000 patients.
"We don't know that the employee was actually responsible for getting this information out there. As far as we know the information was not protected."
Last month, Emory notified 7,300 patients about the breach with through a letter. It said an individual inappropriately printed billing information on patients. Emory fired the employee in July.
The letter also reminded patients to be vigilant when monitoring their credit and personal data.
Skelly said the hospital does not have reason to believe anyone outside of the
nine patients with fraudulent tax returns will be impacted. But, he admits he doesn't know what was done with the thousands of bills that were printed out.
The case originated in Duluth, but DeKalb County investigators have had the Emory portion of it. At this point, DeKalb police have not brought any charges against the former employee.
Kavanaugh reached out to police for comment, but could reach the detectives working the case.