Nearly 200 Baton Rouge high school students fall victim to identity theft

Published: Jan. 31, 2012 at 4:37 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2012 at 11:28 AM CST
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Arnetia Buckles (Source: EBRSO)
Arnetia Buckles (Source: EBRSO)
Shaquille Porter (Source: EBRSO)
Shaquille Porter (Source: EBRSO)
Scottie McKnight (Source: EBRSO)
Scottie McKnight (Source: EBRSO)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Baton Rouge Police Department is conducting an identity theft investigation involving at least 187 potential victims, all students at a Baton Rouge high school, and the suspect in the case is a 17-year-old student from the school.

The investigation began on January 17, 2012 when Uniformed Patrol officers conducted a traffic stop in the 6500 block of Greenwell Street. During the traffic stop, police found Arnetia Buckles, 17, to be in possession of several sheets of paper listing the names, dates of birth and social security numbers of 159 people, all believed to be students at the East Baton Rouge Acceleration Academy.

Investigators believe that Buckles, a student at EBR Acceleration Academy, somehow obtained the printout of personal information from the school. She is accused using that information to file fraudulent federal income tax returns to collect refunds in the names of at least some of those individuals.

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Police also found 15 Wal-Mart gift cards. They believe they were obtained for credit by returning stolen merchandise.

Buckles was arrested and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on January 17 and charged with 159 counts of Identity Theft, Attempted Theft and Refund Fraud.

A second female in the vehicle, Shaquille Porter, 20, was also arrested and charged with Attempted Theft and Refund Fraud. A third occupant, Scottie McKnight, 18, was arrested and charged with Illegal Carrying of a Firearm and Resisting an Officer after he fled the scene at the time of the traffic stop. When he was found, he had a loaded handgun concealed in his pocket.

Police more thoroughly searched Buckles' vehicle and found 28 more names and personal data.

"They just sent out a note saying we need to call the IRS, somebody has carried us on the income tax.  I found out that someone carried me," said one young man, who asked not to be identified.  He says he left the school three months ago, but got a call saying his information had been stolen.

Police say that is likely the only way students will know if they are among those affected.  "Only way these folks will find out they were victimized is when they file a legitimate tax return and IRS tells them, they've already filed one," said Sgt. Don Kelly.

The school sent out the following letter to parents at EBRAA:

From: Vincent Perry
To: EBRAA Parents
Re: Financial Crimes
Date: 1/25/12

We are contacting you because we have learned of a serious data security incident that occurred that may involve some of your child's personal information.

The breach involved student registration information. The information breached contained student names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers. We were informed by the Baton Rouge Police Department's Financial Crimes Division that some of the compromised information has been used for Income Tax fraud. We are notifying you so that you can take action to minimize or eliminate potential harm. The East Baton Rouge system was contacted by the Baton Rouge Police Department Financial Crimes Division alerting them to the fact that the incident occurred. Because this is a serious incident, we strongly encourage you to take preventive measures now to help prevent and detect any misuse of your information.

We apologize for the inconvenience and request that you contact your local IRS to see if a tax return has been filed using your Child's name as a dependant or has been used fraudulently in any way. If so please call the school and we will contact the office of Financial Crimes.

The school system says the only way to access the student's information is to know the user ID and password.

Baton Rouge Police Financial Crimes Detectives are continuing this investigation, with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service and the United States Secret Service.

Any students or parents who believe they have been victimized should contact Det. P. Martinez at (225) 389-3871.

Copyright 2012 WAFB. All rights reserved.