Investigative Group

VA Employee Accused of Trying To Sell Vets’ SSNs, Arrested Outside Server Room Weeks After He Was Fired

REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

Luke Rosiak Investigative Reporter
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A Department of Veterans Affairs database administrator was indicted for allegedly attempting to sell vets’ social security numbers and stealing their identities.

The indictment, unsealed Thursday, charges that Phillip Hill of Benton, Ark. tried to sell the data for $100,000 to a confidential informant working with law enforcement. The data was the personal info of veterans, their dependents, and VA employees, prosecutors said.

Hill was terminated by the VA Dec. 6, but told the informant that even after being fired, he could access the information remotely by logging in using a government computer still in his possession, or even by stealing an entire server.

Police arrested Hill outside the VA complex where the data was housed Dec. 18, weeks after he was fired. Investigators said they discovered that he had blank ID cards and had stolen someone’s identity. They said they arrested him before he was able to sell the data.

He has been charged with attempted trafficking in access devices, aggravated identity theft, and possession of access device making equipment, local news outlet ArkLaTex reported. He has been released on bond.

The case highlights the ongoing cyber threats faced by government bodies. In the House of Representatives, after investigators found unauthorized logins by staffers and determined that data was being removed from the network, authorities were far slower to react than Arkansas law enforcement, and a server containing House data that was evidence in the probe was then physically stolen, officials said.

Even then, the House employees — Pakistani-born IT aide Imran Awan and his family — were banned from the network but still permitted to physically access the Capitol, and a police report alleges that months later, Awan was in the building at midnight with a laptop with the username RepDWS, referring to his employer, Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Even then, Awan was not arrested for unauthorized access.

Editor’s Note:

The Daily Caller, Inc., the Daily Caller News Foundation, and Luke Rosiak have settled a defamation lawsuit brought by Imran Awan, Abid Awan, Jamal Awan, Tina Alvi, and Rao Abbas (“the Plaintiffs”), in the D.C. Superior Court, Awan et al. v. The Daily Caller, Inc. et al., No. 2020 CA 000652 B (D.C. Super.) (“The Lawsuit”).
The Plaintiffs filed the Lawsuit in 2020, alleging that they were defamed by statements made by The Daily Caller entities and Mr. Rosiak, including statements in Obstruction of Justice, a 2019 book authored by Mr. Rosiak and published by Regnery Publishing, a business of Salem Media Group, Inc., about the Plaintiffs’ work for the U.S. House of Representatives. In response, The Daily Caller entities and Mr. Rosiak each denied liability and contested the Plaintiffs’ claims. 
None of the Defendants has admitted to any fault as part of this settlement. Nevertheless, The Daily Caller entities and Mr. Rosiak recognize that no charges have ever been filed against the Plaintiffs relating to their congressional IT work.

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