ID theft feared in Visalia document dump

October 17, 2006

By Tim Sheehan, The Fresno Bee

City officials are alerting about 200 current and former Recreation Division employees that some of their private information . including Social Security numbers . may have been compromised when someone tossed copies of city records onto a Visalia street over the weekend.

Police are continuing to investigate how the copies of the city payroll records and other documents . part of a court file in an embezzlement case last year . got out into the public.

The records were part of the case against Jesse Moreno, 36, who was arrested in April 2005 on suspicion of grand theft, embezzlement and hundreds of incidents of forgery. Moreno, who was a recreation supervisor with the city, allegedly faked time sheets for hourly employees and cashed the resulting paychecks to embezzle as much as $58,000.

Moreno was convicted last year and is in state prison.

Police were referring questions about the documents Monday to Deputy City Manager Leslie Caviglia. Caviglia said Monday that the original records remain securely in the city's files.

"Everything is right where it's supposed to be," she said. But the city did provide copies of timesheets, canceled paychecks and other documents to police, the Tulare County District Attorney's Office and to Moreno's attorney, Robert Bartlett, for use in the criminal case.

Police were called to the area of Houston Avenue and Court Street about noon Saturday after witnesses found the documents on the street.

Caviglia said witnesses told police that a man tossed the papers out of a moving vehicle.

Because the city doesn't know whether the man had access to the entire court file, officials are treating the case as if all of the records in the file were compromised.

Officials haven't determined what percentage of the file has been recovered.

"We're talking about 200 employees," Caviglia said Monday. All of the employees worked in the city's recreation division during 2003 and 2004; most, she added, were part-time employees in various recreation programs.

Caviglia said the city is contacting all the employees so they can take steps to prevent identity theft or fraud, including contacting national credit-reporting agencies.

"There are a lot of contingencies where someone might have these records," Caviglia said. "It's not necessarily illegal to have them, but it would be illegal to use the information for fraud."

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