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ABC2 Investigators went dumpster diving after getting a tip about document dumping outside a now defunct Baltimore County law firm. We dug in and found sensitive personal information that belongs to clients.
We're not in the habit of picking through the trash, but sometimes we're willing to get our hands dirty, especially when we hear your information has been tossed aside like it's worthless. We went digging in a Baltimore County dumpster after getting a tip personal information had been dropped inside.
And that's exactly what we found.
Sensitive personal information from Cheryl Mainer's family was inside the dumpster, which is located outside the now defunct offices of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Law Group located along Jarrettsville Pike.
"You've got me shaking right now because I can't believe this. This is all his personal information, all our personal information," Mainer told us.
We found information like Social Security numbers, bank information, mortgage payments and even complete medical records. It was inside a Phoenix dumpster, giving anyone access to see or grab it.
Mainer questioned how information that could put her at risk ended up in the trash, asking, "Oh my God. How did it get there?"
That's the big question we wanted to answer after finding potentially damaging information that could lead to identity theft from clients of Mid-Atlantic Regional Law Group. The firm, which listed bankruptcy, traffic and criminal case services on its business cards and sign, is now gone. The company's website and its leaders are also gone, leaving nothing but a container filled with information about the people they used to represent.
The Maryland Attorney General's Office tells us they also went dumpster diving at the firm, seizing records from the dumpster outside the company's former office.
Phil Ziperman, the Deputy Chief of the agency's Consumer Protection Division wouldn't confirm whether the agency is investigating, but says generally the failure of any company to properly dispose of its customer's sensitive personal information is a violation of law.
"It's just plain wrong," Ziperman said, "A business that collects personal information from consumers needs to take reasonable and appropriate action to protect that information and when they don't the attorney general's office takes that very seriously."
The MD Attorney General's office has taken serious action against companies that dump documents. In just the last 18 months they've won a handful of civil cases, fining the Roomstore $15,000, Amos Medical Services $20,000 and CVS Pharmacy $250,000.
"There's no excuse for a business not to take reasonable steps to protect the information it collects from consumers," Ziperman told us.
ABC2 Investigators haven't been able to get an explanation from the people who ran Mid-Atlantic Regional Law Group. We tried to find the firm's CEO, Kurt Rehak, who's also listed as the owner of a real estate appraisal company on Falls Road. That building is now for lease and the phone number for the business has been cut off so you can't find him. We tried reaching Rehak by cellphone but his voicemail was full.
We're not the only ones looking for Rehak. Court records show Rehak was sued earlier this year by a local couple that claims he did bad appraisals. Rehak never appeared in court for that case and the couple won a $30,000 judgment their attorney says still hasn't been paid.
We also tracked down the partner of the firm, Tabatha Cuadra. The line to her office has been disconnected but we found her through a cellphone number. She told ABC2 the law firm is "winding down" and that it's possible some items were left behind when the company left the Phoenix office. Cuadra maintains she has all the files for her clients.
Records show Cuadra was recently reprimanded by the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission for professional misconduct. The commission claimed Cuadra sent out what documents called misleading "scare tactic" letters to drum up business. The group says Cuadra didn't stop even after being told to revise the letters to make it clear they were an ad for her law group.
Clients who ended up with the firm now want to hear from her. Cheryl Mainer wants to know how her information ended up at the bottom of a dumpster.
"Shame on you," Mainer said, "Shame on you. This is terrible."
ABC2 Investigators gave Cuadra the opportunity to comment on camera. She declined.
It's an eyesore, it's unsanitary, and it's a huge problem in Baltimore. The city spends about $17 million cleaning up illegal dumps each year, but the current penalties aren't deterring some people.
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