Four pathology practices in Massachusetts and owners of a former billing firm have been fined a total of $140,000 by the State of Massachusetts after medical and billing records were disposed of at a recycling station.

The practices and Joseph and Louise Gagnon, who owned billing firm Goldthwait Associates, reached settlements with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Coakley charged that dumped medical records had patient names, diagnoses and Social Security numbers, among other information for more than 67,000 patients. The Boston Globe reported the breach in July 2010 when a newspaper photographer found the records while dropping off his own trash.

According to The Salem News, the Gagnons, who no longer own the firm, were fined a total of $30,000, with $25,000 suspended based on a review of their financial records and compliance with the settlement, so they will pay $5,000.

Fines totaling $110,000 were levied against Kevin Dole, M.D., former president of Chestnut Pathology Services; and against Milford Pathology Associates, Milton Pathology Associates and Pioneer Valley Pathology Associates. Dole will pay $20,000; his practice has been dissolved. The other practices will pay $30,000 each, according to the Office of Attorney General. They were fined for violating HIPAA requirements to have appropriate safeguards in place to protect information being provided to the billing firm.

The HITECH Act gave state attorneys general authority to prosecute HIPAA privacy and security violations. This is the second time Attorney General Coakley has taken action and levied fines following a major breach. In May 2012, South Shore Hospital in Weymouth agreed to a $750,000 settlement following a beach that affected about 800,000 patients in 2010.

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