August 15, 2006

Government laptop theft was second in Florida

By Jane Sutton

MIAMI (Reuters) - Last week's highly publicized case of a
U.S. government laptop stolen in Florida was actually the
second government computer stolen there in recent months,
investigators said on Tuesday.

A laptop computer containing fraud case files was stolen
from a U.S. transportation agent in Florida three months before
the theft of the government laptop containing personal data on
thousands of motorists and pilots.

Last week, the U.S. government offered a $10,000 reward for
the return of the Dell laptop stolen from a Department of
Transportation agent's vehicle in the Doral area of Miami on
July 27.

It was loaded with about 133,000 drivers' and pilots'
records from the Miami-Dade County area, and included their
Social Security numbers and dates of birth, the Department of
Transportation said last week.

On April 25, another DOT laptop was stolen from an Orlando
hotel during an anti-fraud conference sponsored by the agency,
a spokesman for the DOT inspector general's office confirmed on

The computer was assigned to Barbara Barnet, special agent
in charge of the agency's Miami office, and contained fraud
case files involving government contracts and grants.

Barnet told sheriff's investigators she left the laptop in
a locked meeting room and that it was missing when she returned
45 minutes later and found the door open, according to the
Orange County Sheriff's theft report.

David Barnes, a spokesman for the DOT inspector general's
office in Washington, said there was no indication the two
Florida laptop thefts were related, nor any indication the
information on them had been misused.

Neither laptop has been recovered and the thefts have
prompted stricter rules for the handling of computers
containing personal information, he said.

The DOT computer thefts were only the latest among several
involving federal government agencies. The Department of
Veterans Affairs said last week that a computer with up to
38,000 veterans' records was missing from the office of an
agency subcontractor.

And in May, a Veterans Affairs Department laptop containing
sensitive information on more than 26 million veterans and
service members was stolen. It was recovered in June.