Tampa man charged in identity-theft scheme at VA
Published August 23rd, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. - A Tampa man has been arrested for his alleged involvement in an identity-theft scheme at a Veterans Affairs hospital.
Willie Streater, 24, was taken into custody by federal marshals on Wednesday on eight charges stemming from allegedly stealing Social Security numbers from at least 34 veterans treated at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in 2011 and 2012. He had been hired by a firm whose website warns no to "become a victim of identity theft" and was supposed to be shredding documents for the hospital.
Instead, prosecutors claim, he kept the records and sold them to people who filed fraudulent tax returns. All told, authorities said, $1.1 million was stolen.
Streater is being held on $35,000 bail. It's not known if he has an attorney. Prosecutors haven't said if others are expected to be charged.
Streater was hired by Secure Waste Disposal Inc. of Orlando - a company under contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs to shred documents at the North Tampa hospital - despite a criminal record. Since 2007, he has accepted plea deals on charges that included the sale and possession of cocaine, grand theft and burglary, court records show, though a judge withheld adjudication in the cases and Streater only received probation.
VA policy requires a criminal background check for employees, though it's not clear if that policy extends to contractors.
Streater is charged with five counts of the wrongful disclosure of health information, two counts of credit card fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison, while each of the other charges carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
The VA has been criticized for failing to safeguard the personal information of veterans, including an incident in 2006 when a thief stole a laptop containing personal data on 26 million veterans. Reports say a former Haley clerk was sentenced in March to six years in federal prison after he admitted stealing the Social Security numbers of 59 patients.
The defendant in that case said he often traded the information for drugs.
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