Identity thief mistakenly given inmates' Social Security numbers

Identity thief mistakenly given inmates' Social Security numbers

The Social Security numbers of more than 2,000 inmates at Chillicothe (Ohio) Correctional Institution were mistakenly released to a convicted identity thief. The Chillicothe Correctional Institution is seen through fence and razorwire in 2012.

MANSFIELD, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections mistakenly released the Social Security numbers of more than 2,000 inmates at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution to a convicted identity thief as part of a public records request.

"This is a situation that we are taking very seriously. We are taking prompt action in investigating the circumstances surrounding the release of this protected information. We are actively looking into identity theft monitoring services for those whose information was released," said JoEllen Smith, a spokeswoman with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

Lonny Bristow, 43, who has served time in state and federal prisons, said Tuesday he has routinely filed public records requests over the years seeking prison inmate rosters. Bristow, who now lives in Wayne County, Ohio, said he has never served time at Chillicothe.

Related:4 types of identity theft and how to avoid them

Bristow, formerly of Mansfield, Ohio, managed to bypass the controls on the automated inmate telephone system at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville and obtained 23 phone lines, which he rented to other inmates in 2000.

Legally, such identifying information such as Social Security numbers, is redacted by governmental agencies upon public records requests.

"I find it ironic they released this information to a former identity thief," said Bristow, who contacted the (Mansfield, Ohio) News Journal a day after receiving the prison roster in his email from the rehabilitation and corrections department.

"I knew I had to turn it into the media," he said. "I actually am truly done with the criminal life. Life's too short. I could've used those Social Security numbers to open a credit card account, but I didn't."

The documents viewed contain the inmates' offender number, name, date of birth, Bureau of Criminal ID number, Social Security number, release date and housing number.

Bristow was released Jan. 6 from a federal prison halfway house in Las Vegas after being convicted of making a series of bomb threats at courthouses in five states in 2012.

Related:College students are prime targets of ID thieves, scammers

After an investigation by the FBI's division in Knoxville, Tenn., authorities alleged prepaid calling cards were used to make bomb threat calls in Tennessee on Nov. 27, 2012. Investigators said the cards were purchased at a Walmart. The Cleveland FBI office reported Bristow had purchased a prepaid calling card Nov. 27 at the store, according to News Journal archives.

In 1997, Bristow was labeled a "vexatious litigator." Beginning in 1993, Bristow filed at least 137 lawsuits, targeting law enforcement personnel, judges, media outlets and others. Although the lawsuits usually were tossed out of court, they added up to thousands of dollars in attorney fees, according to the newspaper's archives.

Bristow also was the first inmate in Ohio to have his mail privileges revoked. He received a 13-year prison sentence for theft, retaliation, aiding an escape, harassment by an inmate and telephone harassment. In 1998, Bristow was sentenced to nine years and 11 months. In 2000, an additional three-and-three-month sentence was added for credit card scams while he served his sentence at Lucasville. In 2007, seven months were added to his sentence for credit card scams while at another facility.

Bristow said he is currently unemployed but was working in customer service, before he was let go. He could not be issued a password because of his past credit card convictions.

He is working on getting a commercial driver's license this week, he said.

Bristow said when he first saw the email with the Social Security numbers he thought the prison and/or the FBI was trying to set him up.

On Tuesday, he called the Ohio rehabilitation and corrections department and the Mansfield office of the FBI.

"The department of corrections wants a letter from me saying I deleted it and I didn't use it," Bristow said. "I'm on my way to the post office. Steve Gray, the chief legal counsel for the department of corrections, asked me to write that."



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