CLEVELAND— Today, the ACLU of Ohio Foundation announced it has opened its own investigation into the State of Ohio’s practice of stealing the identities of its citizens for law enforcement purposes.
Recent news reports revealed the Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU), which is part of the Ohio Department of Safety, approved using the identity of an actual person – without her consent or knowledge – to investigate Total Xposure in Troy, Ohio in 2003. Total Xposure was a strip club that has since closed.
In the Total Xposure investigation, local police recruited a University of Dayton student, Michelle Szuhay, to pose as a stripper at the club using the identification and Social Security Number of another Ohio resident. It is unclear how OIU obtained the ID and Social Security Number of the person in question although it’s thought the ID was confiscated because of an earlier alcohol-related offense. It’s also been revealed that officers observed Szuhay stripping via the Internet using an account gained via the identity of a deceased person.
To date, no disciplinary actions of any kind have been taken against any of the individuals or agencies involved in the controversy. In fact, Miami County Prosecutor Gary Nasal has stated he believes law enforcement personnel are permitted to engage in such practices under Ohio law.
Such a blatant disregard for the ramifications that these law enforcement techniques can have on unwitting Ohioans has spurred the ACLU of Ohio to take action. On April 28, 2005, ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeffrey Gamso sent a letter to Kenneth Morckel, the Director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety. The letter asks for any and all documents demonstrating how often this technique is used and information about the actual identities the State has been using, among other requests.
“I think it finally can be said that we are living in the Golden Age of identity theft, particularly when the State of Ohio sees no problem with stealing the personal information of its citizens to conduct investigations,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeffrey Gamso.
“The conduct of state and local officials in this regard is baffling and offensive, and we intend to get the bottom of what is going on with our sights set on an eventual halt to this practice,” added Gamso.