Chico State graduate charged in data breach; professor cleared


Kimberly Morales

IT Support Services, located in the Meriam Library, Room 142 on Oct. 22

The Butte County District Attorney’s Office has charged a recent Chico State graduate with two misdemeanor counts of unauthorized computer access following the August data breach at Chico State that revealed the names of students requesting exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine.

The news was first reported by Action News Now. 

According to the DA’s press release, Alejandro Benitez, 22, downloaded numerous files from two administrators’ computers, including a spreadsheet that revealed the personal information of roughly 130 students requesting a religious exemption from a COVID-19 vaccine.

Benitez had allegedly posted the vaccine exemption information on several sites including 4chan, according to Ramsey.

The Sacramento Bee broke the original story after receiving a tip from a Chico State professor, who tipped off the paper in hopes that any potential civil rights and privacy violations would be investigated, according to the DA’s press release. The professor won’t face charges.

Benitez formerly worked at Chico State’s Information Technology Support Services Office on campus. ITSS Director Scott Kodai declined to comment.

The University Police Department identified Benitez as the source after examining the spreadsheet he posted on 4chan. According to Ramsey, Benitez failed in his attempt to censor out identifying information on the spreadsheet.

“The University and UPD have nothing further to add beyond President Hutchinson’s Oct. 5 email to campus,” Chico State Media Relations Coordinator Sean Murphy said.

If convicted, Benitez could face up to two years in custody, according to Ramsey. Benitez is being asked to voluntarily appear in court before an arrest warrant is issued.

Kimberly Morales can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @kimberlymnews.