Last month, the United States Attorney General filed federal identity theft charges against Angela Cuellar, a former employee of a Waco-based state contractor responsible for collecting the fingerprints of those seeking state background checks. This part of the story has been widely reported.
However, Imperative Information Group conducted our own research on Ms. Cuellar and the results are startling.
Apparently, her former employer failed to conduct a criminal background check on her or, worse yet, chose to ignore the results of the background check. That bad hiring decision resulted in the identity theft scandal unveiled in last month’s indictment, according to the federal indictment.
Integrated Biometrics Technology (IBT) operates a fingerprint collection site for L-1 ID Solutions, the company to which the State of Texas sole-sourced their Live Scan fingerprinting collection network. IBT collects fingerprints of teachers and others who must receive fingerprints as part of the licensing, certification, or employment processes of Texas state agencies.
According to the indictment, Cuellar worked for IBT from March 10, 2008 until July, 27, 2008. What isn’t reflected in the indictment or in any of the press coverage I’ve found to date is that Cuellar was on probation for theft when she was hired by IBT, having plead guilty to theft charges the previous November.
The federal indictment is interesting reading. During the short time that she worked for IBT, Cuellar allegedly stole “thousands” of applications for fingerprint background checks, each containing the applicant’s “name, address, date of birth, social security number, driver license information, and other identifying information.” Cuellar allegedly “used, gave away, or traded victims’ information so that members of the conspiracy could fraudulently obtain credit cards, goods, and services in victims’ names.”
The “members of the conspiracy caused credit cards and merchandise to be shipped or mailed to various addresses in the Waco area in victims’ names.” According to the indictment, Cuellar and her friends opened JC Penny’s cards, bought Dell computers, and even opened a Green Mountain Energy electricity account at the residence where some of the group was staying.
Several law enforcement agencies are still trying to identify additional victims. The McLennan County Sherrif’s Office has created a webpage and hotline for “Reporting for L-1 ID Solutions Security Breach” in order to aid victims of this easily-preventable data breach.
Sheez. Did I mention that before IBT ever gave Cuellar access to these poor individuals’ identity information, she had already plead guilty and was serving probation for theft on a case out of Waco?
It isn’t clear whether IBT simply failed to conduct a background check on Cuellar, ran an inadequate background check (perhaps only relying on the incomplete state or “national” criminal records databases available online), or ran a background check that included their local county’s records and chose to ignore the resulting records.
That the State of Texas’ background check vendor may have failed to conduct the most basic background check on a potential employee is blindingly ironic. It is no doubt causing blinding headaches for Cuellar’s victims.
By the way, Cuellar was later charged with theft by check in another case, which was dismissed in August of last year after Cuellar presented the DA’s office with…
wait for it…
“forgery affidavits on the checks.”