AG Coakley probing 'outrageous' Plymouth document dump
Mike Beaudet Producer Kevin Rothstein
BOSTON-(MyFoxBoston.com)--Attorney General Martha Coakley has launched an investigation into how a giant pile of mortgage papers belonging to a South Shore attorney came to be dumped in a field in Plymouth, a probe she started after seeing a FOX Undercover investigation on the issue.
“It's pretty outrageous and it's pretty compelling when you see that pile of documents, just in and of itself the dumping of those documents,” Coakley told FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet Wednesday.
A FOX 25 viewer tipped off the station after finding the mound of paperwork in a field that is next to a publicly accessible trail. The pile was made up of boxes full of manila folders, each one apparently containing mortgage applications that revealed containing names, social security numbers, bank account numbers, tax returns and other sensitive information.
“If there's a data breach, you can be held responsible for it. It's why we've opened our investigation around this because it's concerning,” Coakley said. “That amount of information carelessly stored, gotten rid of… certainly doesn't seem on face to be complying with what the law requires.”
Alfredo Marangiello's personal information was part of the pile. His folder was from when he bought a house in Weymouth in 2002.
“Are you worried someone could steal your identity?” Beaudet asked him.
“Yeah, not just mine, anybody’s,” he replied in an interview.
A review of some of the files quickly revealed a common name: Duxbury real estate attorney Michael Haney. He initially denied knowing about the pile.
“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 replied, and got in his car and drove away.
Haney later admitted, he moved the documents to this horse farm last year, saying "the files were moved to a secure location on my client's property, stacked on wooden pallets and covered with a tarp." He added “as part of recent renovations to my client's property she needed to move the files”.
Haney claimed the files were moved to the spot we found them just a week before, an account disputed by the tipster who said he had noticed the pile for about a year. He also said that he had burned all the documents after we contacted him.
We asked Coakley about those claims.
“Attorney Haney is saying that those documents were placed there that same week that we found them. It just doesn't sound believable?” Beaudet asked her.
“Well it certainly on face doesn't pass that test. That will be part of our investigation, obviously, including what he did or didn't do to keep those documents safe. They obviously weren't kept safe. You can see by the video they were dumped,” Coakley replied.
Data security expert Andy Obuchowski told FOX Undercover earlier this week that a key question for investigators in a case like this would be to try and see who had unauthorized access to the documents.
“Certainly by having documents in an open field like this, one of the things that I'd be looking for is having that evidence to prove that nobody had access to those documents. Certainly paper just free flowing, blowing in the wind, I doubt there is a 100 percent guarantee that this information was not accessed. There's going to be a potential, a lot of legal ramifications that come down,” he said.
Haney’s burning of the documents doesn’t necessarily make his problems go away, Coakley said. Her office’s investigation could result in civil penalties or even in criminal charges, depending on what is discovered.
Asked to respond to the news of the Attorney General’s investigation, Haney’s only comment was that he had not been contacted by anyone from the AG’s office.