FBI launches investigation into extortion threats
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FBI launches investigation into extortion threats

Date: November 13, 2008
By: Rebecca Beitsch
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The FBI has launched an investigation after a St. Louis-based company received extortion threats, threatening to expose personal medical information in the company's database which includes University of Missouri and State Government employees.

Express Scripts, a prescription processing company who works with the state government, among other clients, received a letter from an anonymous source threatening to expose millions of the company's clients medical information. The letter contained the personal information of 75 members, including names, social security numbers, dates of birth, and in some cases, information on prescriptions, a press release from the company stated.

The letter was received in early October, but it was earlier this week that clients started receiving letters threatening to expose additional medical information.

Many state agencies are members of Express Scripts. UM Systems President Gary Forsee sent out an email Nov. 6 to employees, telling them of the investigation and referring them to Express Scripts website. The email said the UM System does not know whether any of their files were part of the unauthorized access. Jennifer Hollingshead, a spokesperson for the University of Missouri System, said that there is essentially nothing the university can do. "We're waiting to hear from them," Hollingshead said of Express Scripts. "We're hoping for the best," she said.

Express Scripts is the third largest pharmacy benefit management company in the United States and serves 50 million people.

Another email sent out to state employees said that to the best of their knowledge, none of the 75 members were members of the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan. The same email said that the information released by the extortionist(s) is data "that was in ESI's system as of the middle of 2006."

Members are in the process of being notified if their information was part of the 75 whose data was listed in the extortion letter.

Steve Littlejohn, a spokesperson for Express Scripts, said they could not comment on when or how the extortionist(s) planned to release the information as the investigation is ongoing.

Express Scripts' website said that it has put enhanced security measures in place and has also started an independent investigation of their own.The company has contracted a risk consulting firm to offer free assistance to anyone who's identity is stolen as a result of the security breech.   

The company is offering a one million dollar award to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible. Littlejohn said he hoped the tip line would "galvanize the nation" to come forward with information. "We're going on the offense to bring this to a successful close," Littlejohn said. "Crimes like this cannot be tolerated."