TAMPA — A former juvenile probation officer is likely to become a federal prisoner after agreeing to plead guilty to charges he used information about probationers for fraudulent tax filings.
A codefendant, who worked at Tampa General Hospital, also signed a plea agreement admitting she used patient information from that hospital for tax refund fraud.
Corey Coley Sr., the former probation officer, was first arrested in March. He faces a possible sentence of more than 20 years after he pleads guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Tigi Moore, the former TGH records clerk, faces the possibility of more than 10 years in federal prison after she pleads guilty to conspiracy, theft of government property and aggravated identity theft.
The two were part of an explosion of stolen identity refund fraud. Criminals use stolen names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers to file phony tax returns seeking thousands of dollars in “refunds.”
The IRS estimates that the defendants stole more than $670,000 from federal taxpayers through this scheme. They tried to steal approximately $1.8 million, but some of the tax refunds were rejected, according to the plea agreements.
Another codefendant, Mattie Philon, used information supplied by Coley from at least 90 current and former juvenile probationers to file fraudulent tax returns, according to a Coley and Moore’s plea agreements filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa. Philon also had personal information from at least 45 TGH patients.
Philon, who is cooperating with investigators, has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Another codefendant, Moore’s brother, Albert E. Moore Jr., has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting prosecution.
TGH spokesman John Dunn had no comment on Thursday to Tigi Moore’s plea agreement except to say she was fired after her arrest. Dunn would not say whether the hospital changed procedures to further protect patient information as a result of this case.
Coley, who had been employed with the Department of Juvenile Justice since 2001 and earned an annual salary of $33,000, was fired after his arrest. Officials said he had no discipline problems in his personnel record.
Authorities said Coley found a way to access juveniles’ personal information without being traced. The Department of Juvenile Justice maintains a database of current and former probationers but only recorded when someone accessed a specific probationer’s full report. The system, though, did not record when someone logged in and conducted a search.
If a user conducted a search, according to the complaint, the search results showed the name, Social Security numbers and dates of birth of the individuals who matched the search terms, allowing Coley to get personal information of probationers without being tracked.
DJJ spokeswoman Meghan Speakes said the department has enhanced its data encryption “to better protect all information in” the system.
After Coley was caught, the department also established a control that only allows the last four digits of a youth’s Social Security number to display in most areas of the system, Speakes said. When a user views the full number, the user is tracked.
Speakes said the changes were not in response to the Coley case.
The investigation started when Hillsborough Sheriff’s detectives learned information about Philon’s activities, officials said. She told them she was taking direction from Coley and Albert Moore, according to court pleadings.
“The whole story itself brings together all areas of life where people should realize how easy it is to get their information compromised,” said Hillsborough Sheriff’s Cpl. Bruce Crumpler.