Transient accused of stealing computers from SGV hospital chain arrested; computers with info of 729,000 patients still missing

1024_NWS_PSN-L-LAPTOPSPolice Wednesday arrested a transient accused of stealing laptops computers containing private patient information from a regional hospital chain earlier this month, however the pilfered computers remained missing, police said.
Christopher Lee Brown, 36, was booked on suspicion of burglary after police spotted him in a transient encampment near the 710 Freeway and Valley Boulevard, Alhambra police Sgt. Jerry Johnson said.
But the laptop computers he’s accused of stealing in an Oct. 12 break-in at AHMC Healthcare Inc.’s facility in Alhambra were not found.
“They searched his personal belongings by where he was camped out. They couldn’t find the computers,” Johnson said.
The machines, which contain information of about 729,000 patients of AHMC, were taken about 11 a.m. from the sixth-floor of the building at the 1000 S. Fremont Ave, which is monitored by both security cameras and a security guards, AHMC officials said.
The information contained on the two password-protected laptops includes names, Medicare and insurance identification numbers, diagnosis and procedure codes and record of insurance and patient payments, officials said.
Affected patients on Medicare, which amounts to about 10 percent of the affected group, potentially had their social security numbers compromised by the security breach.
Patients who received treatment at Garfield Medical Center, Monterey Park Hospital, Whittier Hospital Medical Center, Greater El Monte Community Hospital, San Gabriel Valley Medical Center and Anaheim Regional Medical Center are among those whose information was stored on the computers, according to AHMC.
The theft took place on a Saturday and was not discovered until two days later when employees returned to work Oct. 14. A review of security camera footage allowed officials to narrow down the timeframe of the burglary and identify Brown as the suspect, Johnson said.
Police had been checking locations known to be frequented by transients and following up on reports of possible sightings from the public when officers spotted Brown shortly before 9 a.m. Wednesday, Johnson said. He was taken into custody without a struggle.
According to county booking records, Brown was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail pending his arraignment, scheduled Friday in Alhambra Superior Court.
Police had received no indication Wednesday that information taken from the stolen computers had been used for identity theft, Johnson said. But many AHMC patients contacted police and expressed worry about that possibility.
Those concerned that their information may have been compromised can reach AHMC’s Privacy Department at 855-977-6678 for more information.

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