NPR logo Obama Student-Loan Peeping Brings Federal Charges

Obama Student-Loan Peeping Brings Federal Charges

Nine people who worked as contract employees for a company that provided customer services for student-loan recipients were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of illegally accessing President Barack Obama's records from when he was a candidate to after he entered the White House.

The Associated Press had these details:

All nine are charged with exceeding authorized computer access.

They are accused of gaining access to a computer at a Coralville office where they worked between July 2007 and March 2009, and accessing Obama's student loan records while he was either a candidate for president, president-elect or president.

Each of eight indictments posted by Wednesday night were brief, saying the charged individual "intentionally exceeded authorized access to a computer and thereby obtained information from a department and agency of the United States" and "intentionally accessed student loan records" of Obama without authorization.

Those charged are Andrew J. Lage, 54, Patrick E. Roan, 51, Sandra Teague, 54 and Mercedes Costoyas, 53, all of Iowa City; Gary N. Grenell, 58, and Lisa Torney, 49, of Coralville; Anna C. Rhodes, 32, of Ainsworth; Julie L. Kline, 38, of West Branch; and John P. Phommivong, 29, for whom no hometown was listed.

Lage told The Associated Press on Wednesday evening he did not know about the indictment and declined comment.

Messages were left for Teague, Torney and Costoyas. A telephone listing for Kline rang unanswered and a listing for Rhodes was disconnected. No telephone numbers were immediately found for Phommivong, Roan or Grenell.

Reporter Justin Foss of KCRG-TV reporter apparently talked to Teague who said she's innocent. Here's a lengthy piece of his report which contains a lot of good detail:

IOWA CITY — Sandra Teague, 54, Iowa City, had worked for Vangent for 10 years when she says she was walked out of the building and dismissed from her job.

"The company never told me the reason I was dismissed for," said Teague.

Wednesday, she found out when we called to tell her a Grand Jury had returned an indictment against her and several former co-workers for allegedly back in 2008, trying to look up the federal student loan records of Barack Obama. Obama was a presidential candidate at the time.

Teague is one of nine people named in the indictment. She says she used to work with at least four of those named. She did not recognize the names of the others.

"I don't know what the others did, but I know that I did not do it," said Teague.

Teague said she worked in a department at Vangent where they helped people with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA.

"All of it was a shock to begin with, because I knew I had not done that," said Teague. "I knew that something had occurred and that there was a breach of security."

Teague said in order to do their job, they had different ID numbers for each database they had to look up. She said they even had different ID numbers for different versions of the same database, and even on different systems. She said those ID numbers would change every 30 days.

"I had seven different numbers, and I couldn't remember them all, all the time," said Teague.

She said she wrote them on a sticky-note and attached that to the inside of her desk drawer.

"It was assumed that the building had better controlled access, but it turns out it wasn't," said Teague.

Teague said she was questioned by special agents for the Department of Education, Office of Inspector General. Teague said after that interview, the agent suggested a better place to keep her ID numbers. It was at that time Teague thought the matter was resolved.

This isn't the first time records associated with Obama have been spied on. In 2008, contract workers at the State Department took unauthorized peeks at his passport records.