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House Committee Questions IRS Seizure of 60 Million Medical Records

June 14, 2013



The House Energy & Commerce committee sent a letter to Internal Revenue  Service principal deputy commissioner Danny Werfel demanding information about a  class-action lawsuit against the IRS that alleged 15 IRS agents improperly  seized more than 60 million medical records from 10 million taxpayers while  investigating the former employee of a health-care provider.

That provider was not named. Courthouse News Service first reported the  lawsuit, filed in March in state Superior Court in San Diego, calling it a “lurid but vague class action.”

The letter to Werfel requires a  response by June 21. The IRS didn’t return a call for comment.

The suit claims the information allegedly seized includes “information about  treatment for any kind of medical concern, including psychological counseling,  gynecological counseling, sexual or drug treatment.”

“In light of these allegations and in anticipation of the IRS’s increased  role in implementing healthcare under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care  Act, we are writing to request information regarding your agency’s ability to  protect the confidential medical information of millions of Americans and  respect the safeguards imposed by HIPAA.”

No search warrant or subpoena authorized the seizure of these records, the  complaint reads.

The class-action suit was brought by Robert E. Barnes, a Malibu, Calif.,  based lawyer who represented actor Wesley Snipes in his tax fraud, conspiracy  and tax evasion case, in which Snipes allegedly failed to report more than $58  million in income from 1999 through 2004.

The suit alleges the IRS raided an unnamed medical provider, “John Doe  Company” located in the southern district of California in March 2011. No other  identifying information is provided.

Purportedly, according to the suit, 15 IRS agents “seized personal mobile  phones” at the company, as well as computer servers, without screening to  protect private medical care information.

Specifically, the suit alleges the IRS ordered the company’s information  technology workers “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.”

The suit claims that the information IRS agents allegedly seized also  included records for at least “one million” residents of California, adding the  IRS allegedly seized medical records for “prominent celebrities, sports  personalities,” and CEOs, and potentially “the intimate medical records of every  state judge in California, every state court employee in California, leading and  politically controversial members of the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors  Guild, and prominent citizens in the world of entertainment, business and  government.”


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