Attorney General Cuomo Secures Guilty Plea From Former State Tax Department Employee For Using Position To Steal Taxpayer Identities
ALBANY, N.Y. (June 24, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the guilty plea of a former state tax department employee for illegally possessing sensitive personal data of hundreds of New Yorkers and using some of that information in an elaborate identity theft scheme.
Walter Healey, 63, of Oakwood Avenue in Troy, pleaded guilty today before Rensselaer County Court Judge Andrew G. Ceresia to Identity Theft in the First Degree (class D felony), which carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison; Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree (class D felony), which carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison; Unlawful Possession of Personal Identification Information in the Second Degree (class E felony) which carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison; and Official Misconduct (class A misdemeanor), which carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail. As part of his plea agreement, Healey has agreed to pay $200,000 in forfeiture. Sentencing is scheduled for October 30, 2009.
“Today’s guilty plea ensures that this breach of public trust by a state employee will not go unpunished,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Mr. Healey will now be paying for his crimes. It is my sincere hope that this case stands as an example to others on public payrolls who think they can put personal gain above professional ethics.”
According to court records, Healey was assigned in 2006 to a Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) unit that scans identification documents, including social security cards and birth certificates, which taxpayers submit in connection with routine audits. He also had access to various tax documents and returns through DTF’s computer system.
According to court records, Healey took taxpayer identification information from tax department files and used that information to apply for and obtain credit cards. Evidence collected shows he had at least 90 fraudulent credit cards and other lines of credit at more than 20 banks with unpaid charges on the accounts exceeding $200,000. The scheme was uncovered after another DTF employee noticed irregularities in certain DTF files to which Healey had been assigned. The case was then referred to the Attorney General’s Office.
Healey made unauthorized use of DTF computers to access taxpayers’ personal information, and stored this information at his home. Records show he opened accounts using the Social Security Numbers of at least fifteen different people, including a four-year old boy and at least four individuals who were deceased, including his own mother and sister.
As alleged in the complaint, in October 2008, the Attorney General’s Office obtained and executed a warrant to search Healey’s home in Troy. The search uncovered hundreds of pages of tax records, identity documents, and credit card statements and applications, including:
- Copies of over 700 New York State tax forms containing identifying information of New York taxpayers
- Numerous identity documents, including copies of over 300 birth certificates and over 1,000 Social Security cards in the names of various New York taxpayers and their children
- Hundreds of pages of credit card statements, credit card inquiry letters, credit applications and credit cards in the names of “Walter Healey” and numerous other individuals
- Approximately 2,000 Post-It notes with the Social Security Numbers of New York taxpayers handwritten on them - many of them accompanied by handwritten notes such as “good prospect,” “had money,” and “go with this one”
Department of Taxation and Finance Acting Commissioner Jamie Woodward said, “Protecting secure and confidential taxpayer information is a top Department priority, and we will not tolerate the misuse or abuse of privileged information by anyone, including our employees. Our internal security measures were critical in uncovering this breach and our discovery of it led to the matter being referred to Attorney General Cuomo for criminal prosecution. We are grateful that Attorney General Cuomo took swift and decisive action to bring this matter to justice."
The Attorney General’s Office has contacted victims who had a credit card account applied for or opened in their name. As required by law, state tax officials have sent notification to more than 2,000 individuals across the state whose information was breached.
Attorney General Cuomo urges all consumers to be informed. A provision in the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act allows consumers to receive free copies of their credit report annually. Reports can be obtained by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. Additional information on identity theft is available on the Attorney General’s site at www.ag.ny.gov/consumer-frauds-bureau/identity-theft and an informational booklet can be found here . More detailed information on remedying the impact of identity theft is available from the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/ and in the FTC booklet, Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft, available at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0009-taking-charge.pdf.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Lauren Popper Ellis with assistance from Assistant Attorney General Yujin Hong and under the supervision of Stacy Aronowitz, Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity Bureau, and Ellen Nachtigall Biben, Special Deputy Attorney General for Public Integrity, and Linda A. Lacewell, Special Counsel.