Coastal Restoration

by R. Reese Fuller

There are new details, but questions remain as to how Robert Zorn purchased a computer containing the customer information of Coast Capital Mortgage Company.

In April, 20-year-old Robert Zorn purchased a computer at a Goodwill store in Scott for $9. On the hard drive, he says he found the personal financial information for 764 customers of Coast Capital Mortgage Company ("Vanishing Coast," May 4). When he went to the local media with his story, Coast Capital fired back that Zorn had tried to extort $3,500 in exchange for the information. Zorn denied the extortion charge but never refuted the asking price.

At the time, Coast Capital CEO Robert Genisman told The Independent that the company wasn't certain as to how Zorn acquired the computer and was conducting its own investigation. Michael Hebert, Coast Capital's attorney, now says that the company has concluded its investigation, but while there are new details, questions remain.

In a letter sent to 409 of its customers and dated July 7, Genisman wrote: "Coast Capital Mortgage has now recovered all information from the computer bought by an individual at Goodwill." Although Genisman states that the company and the courts are "totally confident that no sensitive information has been released to the public," he tells customers how they can put a fraud alert on their credit reports. He also states that extortion charges against Zorn are still under investigation. Calls placed to the district attorney's office went unreturned as of press time.

In May, 15th Judicial District Judge Thomas Duplantier ordered Zorn to return all information about the computer to the courts, including a list of names he had retained from the computer, after he had voluntarily turned over the computer to the district attorney's office. Hebert says Coast Capital has since analyzed the contents of the hard drive and filed the information under seal with the court.

Hebert contends that there were 409 customers' information on the hard drive and that "the vast majority" of the information for each customer was a name, social security number and the name of the loan officer that each customer had initially contacted at Coast Capital. (Zorn alleges that there are 764 names of individuals on the computer, along with other types of information ' including loan applications, bank account numbers, credit reports and addresses). Hebert would not disclose what other types of personal financial information were found on the computer.

In May, Genisman told The Independent that although the company was still investigating the matter, Coast Capital believed the computer wasn't a personal computer. "It was personally owned by one of our employees who used it for the purpose of operating as a loan agent in the office, and that was it."

Now that the company has concluded its own investigation, attorney Hebert offers another explanation for the use of the computer. "The employee had some customer information on a computer that she used to do some company business at home," he says. "She thought that information was no longer on the computer. It had long since been inactive and not functional. She sold the computer at a garage sale. The person who bought the computer from her at the garage sale could not start it, so that person donated the computer to Goodwill, at which time Zorn purchased it, installed a power supply in the computer, and booted it up."

Despite his claim that the Coast Capital employee had taken the computer home to conduct company business, Hebert also says the machine did not work when she got it home. "It had sat at her house inoperable for over a year and was never connected to the Internet while it was there," he says.

To address the breach of security at Coast Capital, Hebert says that "appropriate internal action has been taken." He would not elaborate on what action has been taken, nor would he identify the employee, citing a need to protect the employee's privacy.

Zorn says he is unaware of the status of any impending charges against him. He still has not retained an attorney.

If you suspect that your identity is being used to commit fraud, you can have a "fraud alert" placed on your credit information. For more information on identity theft and fraud alerts, visit these Web sites:

Federal Trade Commission's Web site on identity theft

U.S. Department of Justice

Fight Identity Theft

Identity Theft Resource Center

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse