Former State Dept. Worker Sentenced for Peeking at Celebrities' Passport Files

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 20, 2008

A former State Department contractor was sentenced yesterday to a year of probation for improperly accessing the passport files of nearly 200 celebrities, politicians, actors and athletes.

Lawrence C. Yontz, 48, apologized and said he viewed the files only for his "own personal curiosity." Prosecutors and his attorney, David H. Laufman, told a federal judge in the District that Yontz did not sell or provide the information to others. Yontz cooperated extensively with authorities, passed a polygraph examination and agreed to plead guilty before the Justice Department got involved in the case, said prosecutor Armando O. Bonilla.

Yontz also is assisting investigators in an unrelated criminal investigation, Bonilla said.

Prosecutors did not identify the people whose passports Yontz snooped on.

In sentencing Yontz to probation and 50 hours of community service, U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola told him that "the damage you did to yourself is greater than the damage you did to others." Yontz, who is unemployed, worked for the State Department from 1987 through 1996. From 2004 through March, he worked for an unidentified State Department contractor.

The Arlington resident pleaded guilty in September to one count of unauthorized computer access, admitting that he logged on to a computer system to illegally access files between February 2005 and March. He is the only person to have been charged since authorities learned in March that contract workers had looked in the private passport files of then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), among others.

An audit later found "weaknesses, including a general lack of policies, procedures, guidance and training" in the office that stores data on 127 million Americans who hold passports. One celebrity's records were breached 356 times by more than six dozen people, the audit found.

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