Police have arrested a Texas man suspected in identity thefts involving more than 160 UC Irvine graduate and medical students, authorities said.
Michael Tyrone Thomas, 27, of Fort Worth, was an employee in the Student Resources Department of United Healthcare in Dallas, authorities said. The company manages the university's graduate student health insurance program.
The 163 identity theft reports involved students in the 2006-07 school year, said UCI Police Chief Paul Henisey.
Thomas allegedly stole a file that contained the names and Social Security numbers of 1,132 students, Henisey said. The file was taken in December 2007, shortly after United Healthcare bought the Student Resources Department in July, he said.
Although United Healthcare does not use Social Security numbers to identify its customers, Student Resources did, and Thomas was able to access the information during the file transfers, Henisey said.
Students began reporting the thefts in March, when they tried to file their federal tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service notified the students that returns with their Social Security numbers had already been submitted.
Henisey said the IRS is investigating the case for tax fraud. The university is offering no-interest loans to students whose tax refunds have been delayed because of the identity theft, he said.
No security breach of student information has been found at the university, Henisey said. He added that this is UCI's first case of identity theft involving university information or systems.
Thomas is charged with one count of fraudulent use of identifying information. Henisey said police plan to file two more counts of the same charge. If convicted, Thomas faces a penalty of five to 99 years in prison on each count, he said.
UCI police worked with officers in Forth Worth and with Dallas County district attorney's investigators. Thomas is being held at Dallas County Jail with bail set at $300,000.