LAWFUEL – Law Newswire – A former Social Security Administration employee surrendered yesterday to face federal charges of illegally disclosing personal information that she took from a government computer and that was used by others to commit identity theft and to rack up approximately $2.5 million in credit card charges.
Jennifer Batiste, 45, of Leimert Park, made her initial court appearance yesterday afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles. A United States Magistrate Judge released the defendant on a $5,000 bond.
Batiste was named in a three-count indictment returned on March 6 that charges her with conspiracy, accessing a protected computer to conduct fraud and disclosure of a social security number.
The indictment alleges that Batiste conspired with Craig Harris and others by agreeing to access the Social Security Administration’s computer system to run search queries for Harris. When Harris would give Batiste a name and date of birth, Batiste allegedly obtained other identifying information, such as that person’s social security number (SSN) or mother’s maiden name. When Harris would provide an SSN, Bastiste allegedly obtained a date of birth or mother’s maiden name that was linked to that SSN.
Bastiste allegedly was paid $20 for every search query she ran on the government computer system to obtain information for Harris. The indictment goes on to allege that Harris and his co-conspirators used the information provided by Bastiste to make approximately $2.5 million worth of unauthorized charges to credit card accounts.
“Victims of identity theft suffer extreme personal anguish, which is intensified when the perpetrator has violated a position of public trust in the commission of the crime,” said Postal Inspector in Charge Oscar Villanueva. “The Postal Inspection Service is committed to aggressively investigating those who misuse our nation’s mail system to commit identity theft and the Los Angeles Division is committed to giving its continued support to the Identity Theft and Economic Crimes (ITEC) Task Force, which is responsible for bringing this perpetrator to justice.”
David F. Butler, Special Agent in Charge, Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, stated: “The Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, is committed to aggressively pursuing fraud perpetrated by SSA employees. The American public not only deserves, but demands, the highest standards of integrity from government employees that are paid with their tax dollars.”
If she is convicted of the three counts in the indictment, Batiste faces a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.
Harris, a 50-year-old Los Angeles resident, pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy and unlawful possession of a means of identification. Harris, who faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced on July 17 by United States District Judge Robert M. Takasugi.