Statement from FAMU
Florida A&M University has implemented additional security measures related to students setting up direct deposit accounts since the 2010 incident. The U.S. Attorney's Office involvement in issuing indictments indicates that FAMU is serious about addressing the alleged criminal acts. As a point of clarification, the individuals did not hack into the system, but gained access to student personal information using deceptive tactics and improperly used the information to commit the alleged criminal acts. Since implementing the security measures, FAMU has not had any repeat incidents.
US Department of Justice Release
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – Carl Joseph Coutard, 21, and Carliss Pereira, 22, both of Miami, Florida, and Christopher J. Wright, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, have been charged with conspiring to access the iRattler computer system at the Florida A&M University (FAMU) in order to divert financial aid monies to themselves.
The indictment was announced today by Pamela C. Marsh, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
The eight-count indictment alleges that between March and November 2010, the three men illegally used the personal identifying information of their fellow FAMU students, without the students’ permission, to access the students’ financial aid information in the iRattler system.
As alleged in the indictment, the defendants then changed the students’ bank account and routing information without the students’ knowledge or consent.
When the students were due to receive financial aid refunds, the defendants would divert these monies to bank accounts the defendants had fraudulently opened in the students’ names.
In addition to conspiracy, Wright is charged with one count of using an unauthorized access device, Coutard and Pereira are charged with possession of more than 15 unauthorized access devices, and Coutard is charged with obtaining information from a protected computer without authorization.
The unauthorized access device offenses are punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The computer intrusion and conspiracy offenses each carry a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.
All three men are also charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory term of 2 years in prison, which must be served consecutively to any other sentence.
U.S. Attorney Marsh praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FAMU Police Department, the United States Department of Education, the United States Secret Service, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, whose joint investigation led to the indictment in the case.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Rhew-Miller.
An indictment is merely an allegation by a grand jury that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.