Columns

Miami-Dade Public Schools Have an Identity Theft Problem

​Miami-Dade County Public Schools have a

security problem -- and we're not talking bad locks on the local

elementary school's front door.

Student information has fallen

repeatedly into thieving hands, and the latest lapse comes from an

especially embarrassing accused perp: Tizrah Ingram-Johnson, daughter

of the late black leader and former school board member Robert

Ingram.



Ingram-Johnson stands accused of

stealing student info to pay her utility bills while working for the

school board -- just the latest data breach for the system, which

has seen others forge credit cards and bilk thousands using student

info.


School board spokesman John Schuster declined to comment on Ingram-Johnson's case but in general defends the school system's data security. "The district repeatedly issues warnings about the consequences of misusing this information," he says. "Computer screens issue these reminders when employees sign on to access student information. The district also limits access to paper records."

Ingram-Johnson declined to comment. But the charges spelled out in the 50-year-old's case by the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Police Department and the county inspector general stand in stark contrast to the legendary status her father holds in black Miami.

Robert Ingram went from being Miami's first African-American motorcycle cop in the '60s to mayor of Opa-locka in the '80s and '90s. He was elected to the school board in 1998 and held the seat until his death in 2007.

That was the same year, coincidentally, his daughter was hired at the North Miami Adult Education Center. As a secretary for the registrar's office, Ingram-Johnson had access to students' personal information, including photocopies of driver's licenses.

In August 2010, investigators allege, Ingram-Johnson opened an account with Florida Power & Light under the name of a student. From her office at the center, she faxed copies of the student's driver's license to the utility company. Ingram-Johnson ignored months' worth of bills totaling $1,046.

The probe began last November, two months after Ingram-Johnson was laid off. She was charged February 2 with identity theft and grand theft.

Her alleged crime echoes other recent data thefts in the system. In 2009, Roshell Demps -- a former clerk for the school board -- and her boyfriend pleaded guilty to credit card and identity fraud after she was caught stealing social security numbers to obtain credit cards. And this past November, CBS 4 reported that Erika Robinson, a business owner, was under investigation for using the names of students at three inner-city schools to falsely claim she'd been tutoring them in order to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars from the district.

No court date has been set on Ingram-Johnson's charges.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.