Agents from the FBI and the U.S. Postal Service have joined an investigation into pieces of mail sent to thousands of HIV patients in Palm Beach County, Fla., The Miami Herald reports. The letters were mailed after a confidential list of about 6,500 HIV patients was accidentally e-mailed last month to at least 16 county health workers. That list, however, did not contain the addresses of any of the county's HIV-positive residents.
The letters, mailed in West Palm Beach, Fla., carried printed address labels and listed the phone number of a medical billing firm in Indiana. "Your name appeared on a list of HIV-AIDS patients for Palm Beach County," said one letter. The letters asked recipients to call the number to "become a sponsor and donate your time to help the families" of HIV-positive people in the country. The company's attorney has denied any link between the company and the mailings.
County health director Jean Malecki last week confirmed that the FBI and the USPS had joined county health authorities into a criminal investigation in the release of the HIV patients' names and addresses. "My understanding is that Congressman [Mark] Foley [R-Fla.] got the FBI involved," Malecki told the Herald. "I think the Postal Service was called in because the mails were used to harass people who are on our list."