At least three distinct identity-theft crews over the past few years have systematically pilfered confidential medical records from the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, law enforcement sources said.
The thieves' methods? Decidedly low-tech: In many cases, they just plucked papers off patients' files.
The paperwork, called face sheets in hospital parlance, are detailed printed forms completed on patients when they're treated at a hospital -- and it's all gold for an identity thief: Included are names, Social Security numbers, addresses, telephone numbers and much more -- the personal information a huckster would need to get credit in someone else's name, authorities said.
"They went to stores that could open instant credit -- Target, Macy's," said Diane Peress, the bureau chief of economic crime for the Nassau County district attorney's office.
According to prosecutor Kellie McKenna, to date five people have been arrested in the cases, and several have pleaded guilty. There is a warrant out for one of the thieves.
In one case, a worker tasked with doing intake for hospital employees who needed physicals is accused of stealing or photocopying their face sheets. A cohort, who did not work at the hospital, was caught using the stolen data at the music store Sam Ash in Carle Place and Walmart in Westbury, according to court records.
In another case, a crew used information gleaned from the face sheets to go shopping at stores all over the Eastern Seaboard. More than 100 patients were targeted in that scam alone.
Prosecutors secured several guilty pleas in that case, jail time was served, but the actual thief or thieves who obtained the face sheets was never found, nor was it conclusively determined how they were obtained.
North Shore-LIJ is facing a $50 million class action lawsuit filed last month by 12 former patients who say that the health system was negligent in allowing their medical information to be stolen.
According to law enforcement sources, there also is an ongoing investigation of several workers employed at medical practices affiliated with North Shore-LIJ. They are suspected of filching patient information to file false tax returns under those patients' names and obtain fraudulent tax refunds.
Health system spokesman Terence Lynam did not return calls seeking comment on the thefts.
A renal carcinoma patient, who spoke on the condition that her name not be published, recalled being jarred awake at 3 a.m. last year by an out-of-state policeman's call informing her that her face sheet had been found in the possession of a just-arrested criminal.
"Not only did they have my personal information. They had my really personal information," said the woman, in her 60s, a retired bank worker. "It's an invasion."