Company says it had fired 9 employees now charged with accessing Obama loan records

By Nigel Duara, AP
Thursday, May 13, 2010

Company fired 9 charged with accessing Obama loans

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A Department of Education contractor in Iowa said Thursday that nine former employees charged with accessing President Barack Obama’s student loan records were fired nearly a year ago.

Vangent Inc. spokeswoman Eileen Rivera said the workers were let go last June for violating the company’s security policy after it learned what had occurred.

“An investigation identified a number of Vangent employees, among others, who inappropriately accessed student loan records,” Rivera said in a statement. She said Vangent was not the subject of the investigation.

Authorities have not said why the nine people sought access to the records or if the information was then used in any way. Rivera also declined to comment on why they accessed the records.

“We do not know the intentions of the former employees,” Rivera said. “However, no evidence of misuse of the data by the former employees was found.”

The White House declined to comment Thursday.

The nine former employees are accused of gaining access to a computer at the Vangent office in Coralville office 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.

They were indicted Wednesday on charges that they exceeded their authorized computer access. The U.S. attorney’s office said a grand jury returned the indictments in U.S. District Court in Davenport.

Those charged are Gary Grenell, 58; Andrew J. Lage, 54, Patrick E. Roan, 51, Sandra Teague, 54, and Mercedes Costoyas, 53, all of Iowa City; Lisa Torney, 49, of Coralville; Anna C. Rhodes, 32, of Ainsworth; Julie L. Kline, 38, of West Branch; and John P. Phommivong, 29, of North Liberty.

Lage told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he wasn’t aware of the charges, and declined to comment. He did not answer phone calls or e-mail messages on Thursday, and no one answered the door at his last listed address.

Teague told Cedar Rapids television station KCRG that she had nothing to do with the alleged accessing of Obama’s records.

“I don’t know what the others did, but I know that I did not do it,” she said. “All of it was a shock to begin with because I knew I had not done that. I knew that something had occurred and that there was a breach of security.”

None of the others charged could be reached for comment Thursday by the AP and it was unclear if they had hired attorneys. Their last known addresses ranged from small houses in leafy Iowa City suburbs to a North Liberty trailer park.

A man who answered the door at the listed Coralville address for Grenell said, “Gary doesn’t live here anymore.” He declined to be identified.

The nine are scheduled to be arraigned May 24. The charge is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Rivera said Vangent has worked with the Department of Education for 30 years, and said the contract with its Coralville office is still active. She declined to disclose the terms of the contract, citing “competitive reasons.”

will not be displayed