Arkansas Report: Former Department of Veterans Affairs employee indicted for identity theft plot
Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, announced today the unsealing of an indictment charging Phillip Hill, 32, of Benton, a former Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) database manager, with attempting to sell the personal information of veterans and VA employees.
The indictment, returned by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Arkansas on January 9, 2018, and unsealed today, charges Hill with attempted trafficking of access devices (i.e., social security numbers), aggravated identity theft, and possession of device-making equipment.
Hill was previously arrested on December 17, 2017, and charged via complaint on December 18, 2017. Today Hill appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe and was released on bond. Trial is set for March 5, 2018.
The investigation revealed that Hill offered to sell the personal data of veterans, their dependents, and VA employees for $100,000 to a confidential source working with law enforcement.
Hill was terminated by the VA on December 6, 2017. After being fired from the VA, Hill said he could still access the information remotely with a VA computer in his possession, or by stealing a VA server. Hill was arrested outside a secure area at the VA that housed the data he was offering for sale. Law enforcement officers executing a search warrant found a VA computer in Hill’s home.
“Mr. Hill tried to use his position and skills to enrich himself at the expense of veterans who have honorably served our country, and the VA employees working to serve them,” Hiland said. “This indictment reflects our commitment to defending our veterans and federal employees from those who take advantage of their public service by illegally accessing and selling their personal information. It will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Law enforcement officers arrested Hill before he could sell the VA data. Through a variety of investigative methods, investigators also discovered that Hill committed aggravated identity theft by using the personal information of another person, and illegally possessed blank identification cards.
The maximum penalty for trafficking in social security numbers is up to 10 years’ imprisonment and three years of supervised release.
The penalty for aggravated identity theft is two years’ imprisonment and one year of supervised release. The maximum penalty for possessing access device-making equipment is up to 15 years’ imprisonment and three years of supervised release. Additionally, each of these offenses is also punishable by a fine of not more than $250,000.
The case is being investigated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, and United States Secret Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ali Ahmad and Hunter Bridges.
An indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.