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 CAB’s Central Office Wrestles with Identity Theft

February 7, 2007 - Efforts to identify the person or persons who sent The Banner half a dozen phony e-mails last month falsely claiming to be an employee in the Charles A. Beard Memorial School Corporation’s central office have stalled.

Between January 19 and 23, The Banner received six e-mails from someone claiming to be Jena Schmidt, CAB’s public access officer and assistant to the superintendent. The author of the e-mails alleged “much scandal” and offered unsubstantiated allegations of CAB employees being terminated and an improper funding source being used to pay another employee’s salary.

Although they were signed “Jena,” the e-mails sent to The Banner over this five-day period each came from the CAB e-mail account of Amanda Zurwell, CAB’s former business manager. Zurwell, who not been at work since around January 11, abruptly resigned at the end of the following week, citing an undisclosed medical condition that prevents her from working. She has not responded to numerous messages The Banner has left for her over the past three weeks.

After Schmidt confirmed she had not authored the six e-mails, The Banner provided copies of the phony missives to CAB Superintendent David McGuire, who confirmed Tuesday that they had been sent from Zurwell’s e-mail account. McGuire said the school corporation has been unable to determine, however, who sent them, or from what location.

“I don’t know if we can track it any further than we have,” said McGuire. “We have not been able to track it to a specific machine.” While he said it’s possible some of the e-mails had actually been sent from Zurwell’s computer, he also said there was at least one instance where it would have been impossible for that to have been the case.

“If we can track it down, we will certainly do so,” said McGuire. He said these actions are something that he takes very seriously and that they could result in an employee’s termination, if that person is a current employee.

A similar situation in the Zionsville Community School Corporation recently resulted in the filing of felony criminal charges against a teacher who sent e-mails to an assistant superintendent using an e-mail account she had set up in the name of another teacher. The Boone County Prosecutor charged Lisa Hull with identity deception, a Class D felony that can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The situation CAB currently faces has gone beyond that in Zionsville in one respect. Here, in addition to the phony e-mails, someone has, according to McGuire, fabricated and forged a document that purports to be a “Personnel Plan” memo from him to some unidentified person discussing several personnel matters and making negative remarks about the school board and some of the corporation’s employees.

After reviewing a copy of the document, McGuire told The Banner that portions of the “Personnel Plan” memo had been written by him. However, he identified several places where he claimed his text had been substantially altered and where comments were added and falsely attributed to him – acts which could qualify this as forgery, a Class C felony that can bring up to eight years of imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

The memo McGuire says is a fake arrived at The Banner on January 19, after someone surreptitiously shoved an envelope containing the document through the mail slot on the newspaper’s door before the office opened. In a small typed note that accompanied the memo, a person identifying herself as “Jena” asked that The Banner deliver a copy of the memo to a school board member.

As was the case with the e-mails, Schmidt said the envelope containing the altered McGuire memo had not come from her. The “Jena” who did do that, however, appears to be the same “Jena” responsible for the e-mails.

In the first of the six phony e-mails – sent at 5:54 a.m. on January 19 – the sender asked if the envelope had been received. Also, as had been the case with the typed note that came with the memo, the person sending the e-mail also requested that The Banner provide the contents of the envelope to a school board member.

 

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