Roxanne K. Deflorin worked for a decade as an administrative clerk at the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, where she had access to workers' compensation files that contained sensitive information.
It was there, authorities believe, that Deflorin accessed private data on her work computer that contributed to a large-scale theft from several sources of identities and Social Security numbers. The victims included "hundreds of hardworking employees and retirees," Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a written statement.
Authorities believe Deflorin traded that information for drugs.
Deflorin and three other women have been charged in Ramsey County District Court in connection with the alleged theft of between 350 and 500 identities.
According to the complaint: Deflorin obtained identities and Social Security numbers from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) where she worked from October 1994 to September 2004, and from going through trash.
In August 2012, authorities found 355 different identities at her home in the 700 block of Thomas Avenue in St. Paul, including 269 members of the Public Employees Retirement Association of Minnesota (PERA), the charges said. Eight identities were from workers' compensation claims from the DLI database.
DLI spokesman James Honerman said that before she resigned in 2004, Deflorin had access to the department's workers' compensation files.
Starting in 2008, the department began assigning identification numbers instead, although the switch-over is not complete.
"We're trying to move that way, but it's a huge process," Honerman said.
Deflorin, 49, faces one count of identity theft and two counts of possession of a short-barreled shotgun.
Also charged were:
• Kristin R. Warren, 40, of St. Paul, one count of identity theft.
• Shauntell R. Burg, 32, of St. Paul, two counts of identity theft.
• Andrea L. Gunderson, 30, address unknown, two counts of identity theft.
If the women are convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine on the identity theft counts.
Police informed the department this March that it could contact victims identified through DLI documents. A DLI letter informed victims that information they filed between 1990 and 2003 had allegedly been stolen by Deflorin.
Ramsey County Sheriff's Inspector Rob Allen said that victims came from multiple sources, and that many identities are still being verified by authorities.
The scope of Deflorin's alleged theft is still unknown, but data from the State Court Administrator's Office show that the number of identity theft charges filed and convicted in Minnesota from 2004 to Sept. 29, 2013, show no discernible trend. In 2004, there were 87 identity theft convictions. Convictions peaked at 170 in 2008 and dropped in subsequent years.
As of late September of this year, there have been 133 charges filed and 68 convictions for identity theft.
The Federal Trade Commission reported recently that for the 13th year in a row, identity theft was the top complaint.
In 2012, complainants who reported their losses were cheated out of more than $1.4 billion.
Local authorities say that identity theft is the crime wave of the future, with even violent criminals and drug addicts turning to it because it's safe, more lucrative and easier to evade police.
A forged check in June 2012 led investigators to Burg, who told them that she obtained her names from Warren, who allegedly received them from Deflorin in exchange for drugs, the complaints said.
Information from Burg led authorities to surveillance video of several transactions that allegedly show Gunderson using four different identities to purchase or pick up items, the complaints said.
Gunderson and Burg then allegedly pawned the items across the metro to make money off their fraudulent purchases.
The charges also allege that: Warren was arrested last July for possessing 200 stolen identities.
During a search of her home, police also found a printout of 155 PERA names and Social Security numbers.
Burg was arrested last August with three thumb drives containing 144 identities in her pocket.
Gunderson allegedly had a notebook listing the Social Security numbers of her daughter, deceased father and five other people.
It's unclear how many of the stolen identities found among the suspects overlapped, but Allen said authorities believe there are 350 to 500 victims.
It's unclear how much money the suspects made from the identities, he said.