Hundreds of patient records found dumped at Cocoa landfill

Deputies inquiring after records from Merritt Island doctor found

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Several boxes of documents with Merritt Island family practice Dr. Leon A. Cohen's name on them were found dumped at the Brevard County landfill in Cocoa over the weekend.

A post on Facebook with more than 600 comments of concern showed pictures of the boxes containing the files strewn across piles of garbage.

Joe Howell, the landfill's supervisor, confirmed the records were found there.

"Somebody had dumped some medical records out here unbeknownst to me Saturday," Howell said. "So today, we came out here and looked to see if there was any lingering papers or anything that might have floated away. We have found a few and gathered it up in garbage bags."

Howell said he disposed of them properly at the landfill; he had crews dig a hole, dumped the majority of the records into the hole and covered the hole.

 "There were a few boxes that you'd hold records in and some had broken over open," Howell said. "There was pink papers, blue papers, white papers."

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The records had been dumped in the citizen drop-off area. Pictures posted on Facebook show medical test results, among other sensitive information.

Cohen's Merritt Island office was open for business Monday, but patients waiting outside were worried.

"Somebody could find your Social Security number and take your money," patient Michael Collett said. "Get an ID and you're over, just like credit cards."

Patient April Johnson wanted answers.

"That's our identification," Johnson said. "That's disturbing to me for us not to know anything about this. I think they should share with us, the patients, what's going on. To me, that's not right. Anybody could be reading my Social Security, my insurance. That's something to be concerned about."

Staff members would not answer questions when News 6 stopped by the office Monday afternoon.

"Do not take my picture!" shouted one staffer.

Howell said a contractor renovating Cohen's office visited the landfill Monday morning and admitted to accidentally dumping the records believing they were trash.

Cohen's office would not confirm that. No one from the office offered any explanation.

Howell said when someone wants to properly dump medical records, he or she contacts the landfill office and is required to fill out a form. Crews then take the records to the hill at the top of the landfill, dig a hole, immediately bury the records, and allow the owner to record the burial as proof.

Deputies removed the remainder of the records from the landfill and said they are doing an inquiry to see if the dumping violated any laws.

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