Giant pile of mortgage documents found dumped in Plymouth field; AG concerned
Producer Kevin Rothstein
PLYMOUTH (MyFoxBoston.com)--A mound of moldering mortgage documents dumped in a Plymouth field has a South Shore attorney scrambling for an explanation and the state Attorney General concerned that hundreds if not thousands of Massachusetts residents’ confidential information was accessible to anyone who wandered by.
The documents were discovered by a resident of the Plymouth area, who had noticed for months a pile of what looked like debris in a field. The field was separated from a publicly accessible trail by a narrow strip of forest.
He didn’t think anything of it for the year or so he thought the pile was there until he noticed some loose papers had blown into the woods toward the trail, which runs underneath a power line. Curious, he looked at the closest piece of paper and saw what looked like a mortgage document.
He literally followed the paper trail to the pile, which revealed itself to be not debris but an enormous heap of boxes filled with manila folders. Each folder he looked at was from a real estate closing.
“You've got folder after folder after folder,” he told FOX Undercover.
The man, who didn’t want to be identified, pointed out the readily available personal information in the files.
“This is a loan application,” he said.
“Gives a phone number, social security number,” he said, pointing to another folder.
“(This) guy's a police officer for the city of Boston. I got his social security number here,” he said.
Another folder was the mortgage application for Alfredo Marangiello. It contained not only his driver’s license but also the license of his father, who co-signed the loan, and the licenses of two previous owners who were selling the property. Tax returns, social security numbers, employers, even divorce records were part of the file.
“Not liking it,” Marangiello told FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet. “You have thousands and thousands and thousands of people persona's information out there.”
“Are you worried someone could steal your identity?” Beaudet asked him.
“Yeah, Marangiello replied. “Not just mine. Anybody’s.”
“Why do you think someone would dump all that stuff there?” Beaudet asked.
“Greed. They kept the dump money fee. That's a lot of weight,” Marangiello replied.
A check of the files pointed to one name, which appeared in all them: attorney Michael Haney, who runs Navigator Realty in Duxbury and represents mortgage lenders during home closings.
FOX Undercover caught up with him outside his office.
“We want to talk to you about your mortgage documents that were dumped in a field in Plymouth. People's personal information all over them,” Beaudet asked him.
“I have no idea what you're talking about, sir,” Haney replied.
“What do you do with all the mortgage documents that you have?” Beaudet asked.
“I have them scanned in on the computer, sir. I need to run,” Haney said.
“We're doing a story on this, sir and the Attorney General is looking into it,” Beaudet said, but Haney drove away.
Later, off-camera, Haney had plenty to say, admitting he did move his files to a horse farm in Plymouth last year after the place he had been storing them was sold. The farm is owned by Sarah Nagle, who Haney described as a client who owes him money.
Haney said in an e-mail that the files were “moved to a secure location on my client's property” that were “stacked on wooden pallets and covered with a tarp."
“As part of recent renovations to my client's property she needed to move the files," he wrote, so they were moved to where FOX Undercover found them, waterlogged and moldy.
But Haney insists the files were placed in this field the very same week we discovered them, and were covered with a tarp.
Both claims are not true, according to the man who found the documents.
“Anybody coming down the pole line, especially in the fall, you could see this clearly,” he said.
Another file belonged to Kevin Cronin. His personal information was laid out in the documents, which came from when he built his house in Weymouth in 1992.
“My shredder’s going to be very busy, isn’t it,” he said, looking over the file, which FOX Undercover returned to him and Marangiello.
Haney has been busy, too. The pile of documents is now gone.
He says "they were burned in a pit and the ashes buried with the excavated dirt. They are now destroyed."
But that may not be enough, according to Attorney General Martha Coakley, who said it’s against the law to leave sensitive documents unsecured.
“Burning the documents, does that necessarily get this guy off the hook?” Beaudet asked her.
“Not necessarily,” Coakley replied. “We'd want to look at all the circumstances and what happened before they were burned. Obviously they're destroyed now but certainly in between, we'd want to look at the history of this and make sure that no consumers actually had their information taken.”
Haney said that, to his knowledge, no one's personal information or identity was obtained. And says at this point, he doesn't believe there's anything further he can do.
The owner of the farm where the documents were found declined to talk on-camera. But when we first spoke with her off-camera, which was before we first talked with attorney Haney, she never mentioned that the documents had allegedly been moved to that field that very same week, as Haney now claims.