Metro photographer discovers hundreds of private information documents in abandoned KC buildings

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When a metro mom and photographer went inside several old KC buildings, she couldn't believe what she found: social security numbers, medical records and hundreds of other personal records -- all left for the taking.

“For almost two years now I’ve enjoyed going inside the old, abandoned buildings," Regina Daniel said. "I like to take pictures, and I like the story that it tells."

But Daniel said two weeks ago while on a picture taking adventure at the former Universal Academy School in Kansas City, she could not believe what she stumbled on.

“I got inside the building, and in an administrative building and a classroom, I took cell phone pictures of papers that had copies of peoples’ personal information," she said. "I’m talking about social security cards were blacked out, but you could still see the numbers if you held them up to a light. Other social security numbers were not blacked out at all. I found copies of birth certificates, medical records, phone numbers, addresses and what looked to be former students’ enrollment records as well."

Daniel said she found the private papers scattered on floors, in boxes and in filing cabinets in the administrative office and classroom of Universal Academy, which closed three years ago.

“I’m very upset. This is just an open invitation for the wrong person,” Daniel said.

Agatha Gutierrez, a Public Information Officer with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Kansas City Regional Office,  says in 2015 they shut down Rosedale Ridge Apartments and recommended that its contract be terminated “due to a number of federal violations and non-compliance with several regulations.”

What’s more, in December, the curious photographer said she was at the abandoned Rosedale Ridge apartment complex in Kansas City, Kansas, when she found copies of similar important papers that apparently belonged to former tenants. She also found checks with apparent employees’ fingerprints in the complex’s vacant leasing office and an apartment building.

“This is just not right, and the people who did this need to be held accountable,” Daniel said.

“What she found, while not uncommon, is terrible and extreme," said Aaron Reese with the Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City.

“The owners of those two businesses are definitely responsible for it," he said. "They collected the information and did not dispose of it correctly, properly, responsibly."

In the meantime, on Friday Daniel plans to fill a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

“I just feel bad for people whose identities may have been stolen by all this,” Daniel said.

Reese said after their office receives Daniel’s formal complaints, the bureau will launch an investigation, which will include trying to determine if anyone’s identity was breached in any way or if the owners of the vacant school or apartment complex may have violated any privacy laws.

Aaron Reese, a spokesman with the Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City also adds anyone who had ties with the private, Islamic school or the apartment complex before they closed and wants to make sure that their identity has not been breached in any way, may call the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Hotline toll free at:  1-877-438-4338.