Lawsuit alleges theft of health data by two ex-employees - Albuquerque Journal

Lawsuit alleges theft of health data by two ex-employees

The Optum building at 3rd and Roma NW is one of Optum’s 12 locations in the metro area. OptumCare New Mexico filed a lawsuit alleging former employees took massive amounts of patient and company information for a competitor. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

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OptumCare New Mexico alleges in a lawsuit that two of the company’s former employees used a personal email account to obtain confidential medical information for more than 24,000 Optum patients for the benefit of a competitor.

The lawsuit alleges that Giancarlo Martinez accepted a job with Cano Health New Mexico while still employed by Optum. While “dually employed” by both companies, he allegedly emailed numerous patient rosters and internal reports to his personal email account, according to a lawsuit filed Sept. 30 in 2nd Judicial District Court.

The data obtained by Martinez contained “a significant volume of highly confidential and proprietary personal and medical information – including protected health information of more than 24,000 Optum patients,” the suit alleges.

Martinez and his supervisor at Cano, Shaun Burns, used the information to recruit Optum physicians and patients to switch to Cano Health, the suit alleges.

“As a result, several Optum employees have resigned from Optum to join Cano Health” and were “directed by Martinez to solicit the patients they had treated at Optum’s clinics to move to Cano Health,” the suit alleges.

Andrew Schultz, an Albuquerque attorney representing Cano Health and Burns, declined comment on Friday.

Martinez did not immediately respond Friday to phone and email messages seeking comment.

Martinez and Burns began recruiting Optum employees and patients before Martinez resigned in July as site administrator for Optum’s family medicine clinic in the 2900 block of Coors NW, the suit alleges.

Burns had resigned in September 2020 as Optum’s director of clinical operations for primary care. The suit identifies him as Cano Health’s regional operations director for New Mexico.

Martinez sent an email from his Optum email address on May 13 containing a “voluminous” Excel file with detailed information about 23,904 Optum patients, the lawsuit alleges.

The file contained patients’ “physical and mental health issues, conditions and disorders,” treatment histories, prescription spending, insurance plan information and other personal data, the suit said.

The lawsuit seeks the destruction of all Optum records allegedly obtained by Cano Health.

“Optum takes the security of patient and company information very seriously and is taking all appropriate actions to safeguard the data,” Optum spokeswoman Amy Knapp said in a written statement.

The lawsuit sets out a timeline of the alleged actions by Martinez and Burns. It includes:

• On May 14, a day after Martinez sent himself the email containing detailed patient data, he accepted a job at Cano Health with a start date of June 1.

• On May 19, Martinez sent eight emails from Optum to his personal email address containing additional personal information for 8,339 Optum patients, including their physicians, future scheduled visits and specified illnesses.

• Martinez took family leave from Optum from June 7 through July 5 without informing the company that he “was actively working at Cano Health during this time.”

• Martinez resigned from Optum on July 8.

OptumCare New Mexico offers primary and specialty care at 12 clinics in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, according to Optum’s website.

Florida-based Cano Health LLC has 108 medical centers throughout New Mexico, Florida, Texas and Nevada specializing in senior care, according to its website. It identifies three clinic locations “coming soon” in Albuquerque and Los Ranchos.

The New Mexico Secretary of State’s office lists Cano Health New Mexico as a domestic limited liability company in good standing.

The lawsuit asks a judge to order Cano Health to search its computer servers and databases for any Optum data and to destroy it.

Optum also is seeking a restraining order that would prevent Martinez and Burns from soliciting Optum employees and patients to switch to Cano Health. The suit also seeks unspecified damages as determined at trial.

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