Third Individual Pleads Guilty to Illegally Accessing Confidential Passport Files
WASHINGTON – A third individual pleaded guilty today to illegally accessing numerous confidential passport application files, Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin of the Criminal Division announced.
Gerald R. Lueders, 65, of Woodbridge, Va., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a one-count criminal information charging him with unauthorized computer access.
According to court documents, from June 1974 through September 2001, Lueders served as a Foreign Service Officer at the State Department. From fall 2005 to February 2008, he worked as a watch officer within the Office of Consular Affairs. Lueders has also been a retired annuitant since October 2001, serving as a recruitment coordinator in various State Department bureaus. According to information contained in plea documents, Lueders admitted he had access to official State Department computer databases in the regular course of his employment, including the Passport Information Electronic Records System (PIERS), which contains, among other data, all imaged passport applications dating back to 1994. The imaged passport applications on PIERS contain, among other things, a photograph of the passport applicant as well as certain personal information including the applicant’s full name, date and place of birth, current address, telephone numbers, parent information, spouse’s name and emergency contact information. These confidential files are protected by the Privacy Act of 1974, and access by State Department employees is strictly limited to official government duties.
In pleading guilty, Lueders admitted that between July 2005 and February 2008, he logged onto the PIERS database and viewed the passport applications of more than 50 celebrities, actors, politicians, musicians, athletes, family members, members of the media, business professionals, colleagues and other individuals identified in the press. Lueders admitted that he had no official government reason to access and view these passport applications, but that his sole purpose in accessing and viewing these passport applications was idle curiosity.
Lueders is the third current or former State Department employee to plead guilty in this continuing investigation. On Sept. 22, 2008, Lawrence C. Yontz, a former Foreign Service Officer and intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing hundreds of confidential passport files. Yontz was sentenced on Dec. 19, 2008, to 12 months of probation and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service. On Jan. 14, 2009, Dwayne F. Cross, a former administrative assistant and contract specialist, pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing hundreds of confidential passport files. Cross’ sentencing is scheduled for March 23, 2009 and Lueders sentencing is scheduled for March 26, 2009.
The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Armando O. Bonilla of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, headed by Section Chief William M. Welch II. The case is being investigated by the State Department Office of Inspector General.