The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), already under fire for its targeting of conservative organizations and monitoring of Americans’ online activities, is now being accused of stealing the medical records of over 10 million Americans.
A class action lawsuit filed in California in March claims that in the course of serving a warrant for tax records related to a single former employee of a southern California business, IRS agents “stole more than 60,000,000 medical records of more than 10,000,000 Americans.” The agents did this in spite of the fact that such a seizure was not authorized by the warrant, was irrelevant to their investigation, and violated federal law, the suit says.
According to the lawsuit, on March 11, 2011, the IRS “conducted a raid on the corporate headquarters” of the California company. The plaintiffs allege that the raid was unnecessary because “the agents admitted the company was not under investigation” — a confession backed up by both “internal IRS records” and “the search warrant.”
“The search warrant authorized the seizure of financial records related principally to a former employee of the company; it did not authorize any seizure of any health care or medical record of any persons, least of all third parties completely unrelated to the matter,” reads the complaint.
In addition, says the lawsuit, the agents were aware that the company kept medical records for numerous Americans and that those records were subject to the privacy protections of the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): “During execution of the warrant, defendants saw that the [company] was a HIPAA secure facility and were specifically told by company officials that the records they were searching and seizing were private medical records of other Americans.”
Despite all this, the complaint alleges, the agents “told the company’s IT personnel to transfer several servers of the medical records and patient records to the IRS for search and seizure, otherwise they would ‘rip’ the servers out of the building entirely.” Under this threat, the company’s personnel complied with the agents’ demands, giving the IRS possession of “intimate and private information of more than 10,000,000 Americans,” including “the names and health records of prominent celebrities, sports personalities, and CEOs, ultimately affecting roughly one out of every twenty-five adult American citizens,” the suit claims.
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