Polk State College data breach suspect had images of children, infants getting sexually battered, Grady Judd says

Polk County

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) — A data breach at Polk State College led to a Winter Haven man’s arrest on child pornography possession charges, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Grady Judd said the suspect, 38-year-old, Brandon James Diaz, once worked for the college as a clinical coordinator for Polk State College EMS program before being fired in April 2021. Diaz’s employment was terminated after losing his job at Lakeland Regional Health over a failed drug test.

In June 2021, a program coordinator and an instructor found that their labs and scheduling accounts had been hacked. The sheriff’s office said the personnel learned their password recovery hints were changed changed to “Sell Out’ or “Ha Ha Ha Loser.”

According to Judd, Diaz targeted the two instructors since he thought they were responsible for losing his job. Diaz is also accused of altering the administrative rights of eight other accounts as well.

“What I have to say to Brandon is, ‘Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas,'” Judd said. “You got a jail cell for Christmas from us.”

The sheriff said Diaz had access to schedules and grades after hacking the college’s computers. However, no personal information was revealed.

During an interview with Polk County detectives, Diaz admitted to hacking the PSC’s database with his personal computer.

“While we’re doing our due diligence, looking through his computer pursuant to a search warrant, voila! We find child porn,” Judd said.

According to the sheriff, the married father of four had “very graphic” 75 images of children and infants being sexually battered. Judd said it is possible deputies will find more images during their investigation.

“He was going to the deep web, to the dark web to get this child porn,” he said.

The sheriff’s office also screened Diaz’s children and found no evidence that they were sexually battered.

“If he hadn’t messed up by hacking the computers, we at least at this moment in time wouldn’t have known he was accessing child porn,” Judd said.

Diaz was charged with 10 counts of access to computer without authorization, use of a two-way device to commit a felony, and 75 counts of enhanced possession of child pornography. He was given a bond set at $386,000 during his first appearance Monday.

Polk State College issued a statement on the matter:

Polk State takes the safety and security of the College community very seriously. Brandon Diaz was terminated in May 2021 for inability to complete his job duties. The data breaches happened after his termination and were immediately shared with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to investigate and pursue criminal charges. No student information was vulnerable as a result of the data breach. The College continues to cooperate with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in its investigation.

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