Tax forms, other papers found at Smyrna recycling center

As posted on February 24, 2010 on www.ajc.com

The Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs is investigating the dumping of boxes of personal information -- W-2 forms, bankruptcy files and old checks -- into a bin at the Smyrna Recycling Center.

The documents included W2 forms for 1998, 1999 and 2000, Social Security numbers and other sensitive personal information, a Smyrna police report said. It was not immediately known how many such documents were in the bin, but Smyrna police investigator Joe Bennett said the papers were piled five or six feet deep in a 10-by-20-foot dumpster.

Smyrna police went to the recycling center Wednesday when somebody reported finding several W-2 forms inside a dumpster. Morris Johnson, 42, of Acworth drove up later with a pickup full of documents, police said.

In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnson identified himself a “runner” for the Atlanta law firm of Wilson Brock & Irby.

“I was just instructed to dispose of the documents and my understanding was it was a secure site because it’s a very high and large dumpster,” he said. “My understanding is that once stuff goes in nobody can take anything out because it’s very deep.”

Johnson declined to say who instructed him to dispose of the papers. The police report stated that Johnson said John Irby told him to do so. Calls to Wilson Brock & Irby seeking comment were not returned early Wednesday evening. An additional call to John Irby's cell phone also went unanswered.

The dumpster is inside the recycling center, which is surrounded by a fence when closed.

Some other documents in the dumpster came from the law firm of Morris, Hardwick and Schneider, according to the police report. Nat Hardwick, a partner in the firm, said the firm hires a shredding company to dispose of old papers.

“I’m shocked,” he said. “We take that stuff very seriously.”

He said the firm handles numerous real estate closings, so the papers could have come from some place other than Morris, Hardwick.

Bennett said the dumping of the papers is not a crime, which is why the case was turned over to the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs.

“It’s a civil issue through them,” he said.

The consumer affairs office could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.