One of the nation's largest providers of medical test results has filed a complaint against an Ogden man for his refusal to turn over 134 confidential medical screenings that wound up in his home computer.
John Scriven says he is a victim of telephone harassment, while Corning Clinical Laboratories alleges he is resorting to extortion and thievery to make a quick buck.Police said Scriven's actions are under investigation, but no criminal charges have been filed.
"He (Scriven) was not interested in getting to the root of the problem. He was interested in getting his hands on a large sum of money," said Kim McCarthy, senior vice president of compliance for the company, which provides an average 3 million medical test results a day and had 1995 sales totaling $1.6 billion.
The problem began with an error on the part of Corning, which employs couriers who receive medical reports from its automated dialing system via computer. The courier then delivers the reports to the hospitals and doctors who are Corning's clients.
When Scriven received a new telephone number from US West last November, he started getting numerous phone calls with nothing but silence on the other end. The number had belonged to a courier previously employed by Corning.
Once the calls started, Scriven said he couldn't get them to stop. "There were numerous harassing phone calls," he said, that would start at 6 a.m. and continue until late in the evening.
Through caller ID, Scriven said he learned the calls were coming from Denver, and through a tone emitted by the receiver one day, he learned it was a computer calling him. So he turned to a computer for help.
But his computer revealed nothing more than a series of garbled numbers and letters. When he hooked up a printer in March, he started receiving the reports.
In all, he said he received between 800 and 1,300 calls from Corning's computer.
In a complaint filed in Ogden before 2nd District Judge Stanton Taylor, Corning accused Scriven of theft and extortion for deliberately accessing Corning's automated telephone dialing system to retrieve the medical reports.
The reports included patients' names, addresses and Social Security numbers and results of screenings for HIV and hepatitis and other diseases. Scriven said the reports had been ordered by doctors and health-care organizations in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.
Corning said Scriven threatened to release the medical reports to news organizations and put them on the Internet and demanded money before he'd turn them over.
Scriven said he didn't deliberately access the records and denies he ever intended to release the reports to the media, although he concedes a letter he sent to Corning contains that threat.
Scriven said what he meant is that the public ought to know how easily Corning's security was breached through the corporation's own negligence.
Corning sought a court order in May and Weber County sheriff's deputies seized Scriven's computer, discs and other property thought to contain the records.
"All of the information has been retrieved and we took all the hard copies. There is no longer any threat to anyone's invasion of privacy," McCarthy said.
McCarthy said Scriven's ability to get his hands on such private information was a fluke.
"This was an isolated incident everyone agrees shouldn't have happened. We're taking this very seriously and we're confident we have taken the appropriate steps to make sure it doesn't happen again."
As a result of its tangle with Scriven, Corning is establishing a security code on its automated dialing system that will require both sender and receiver to know a particular set of numbers before the transaction can take place.