Charges: Former Ramsey Co. data analyst released private welfare records

Former Ramsey County data analyst Charles Henry Lyght, 52, was charged Tuesday for allegedly releasing private welfare information, and for running a pirated movie business from his desk.

“After a 10-month investigation by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office (RCAO), I am pleased that we are able to bring charges against this defendant who referred to himself as ‘Mr. Movies,’” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a statement Tuesday. “He is accused of unlawfully pirating and selling copyrighted property and abusing his access to the identities of the clients served by Ramsey County’s welfare program.”

Food stamp participants records released

Lyght’s position as a data analyst allowed him access to private information used by Ramsey County for public assistance programs, including social security numbers and private welfare records. According to court documents, an anonymous tip informed authorities last May of Lyght’s alleged activities sharing private welfare information.

Court documents listed more than 10 incidents where Lyght released private welfare records in emails dated from May 7, 2013 to April 20, 2015. All involved sharing data with a woman believed to be his girlfriend.

In one email to his girlfriend, “Lyght informed her that a certain participant in public assistance programs was receiving a particular dollar amount in food stamps and a particular dollar amount in cash every month,” court documents stated.

On more than one occasion, the former Ramsey County data analyst shared screen shots to his girlfriend of private information belonging to participants in the food stamp program – one of the participants whose information was shared appeared to be paying rent to Lyght’s girlfriend.

Pirated movies for co-workers, friends

While investigating Lyght’s computer files, it became apparent that he was also “engaged in the business of downloading copyrighted movies from the internet, burning those movies to a DVD, and then offering the DVDs to friends and co-workers,” according to court documents.

One email sent to an individual included a list of movies Lyght had for sale, followed by messages such as, “Shhhhhhhhhh I’m also Mr. Movies… And I mean Blockbuster quality or I wouldn’t even be telling you whats up… After all, I’m a Data Analyst for crying out loud! Lol…”

In a search, investigators found DVDRs containing copies of copyrighted movies at Lyght’s workspace, and seized several computers plus more than 700 DVDs from his St. Paul home and vehicle.  

Lyght was placed on paid administrative leave in May 2015 and resigned from his position a few weeks later. He’s being charged with one count each of unlawful sales of recordings, unlawful identity of transferor and unlawful disclosure of private data.