Suspect in Cuesta College data breach is wife of man arrested on drug charges

Chad Lee Fowler, 34, of Paso Robles was arrested Thursday, June 11, 2015, on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine and heroin for sale. Original story »
Chad Lee Fowler, 34, of Paso Robles was arrested Thursday, June 11, 2015, on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine and heroin for sale. Original story »

A suspect in a May 31 electronic data breach at Cuesta College is the wife of a man arrested by sheriff’s deputies Friday after investigators allegedly found about $27,000 worth of drugs while searching the home the two share.

Lacey Fowler is an analyst for the college’s human resources department, according to the college’s website, and is on leave, the department said Tuesday.

Several sources with knowledge of the investigation said on condition of anonymity this week that Fowler was a person of interest in the breach.

On May 31, Cuesta College President Gil Stork said in an email to employees that a breach of the college’s employee database had occurred and that personal employee information had been sent to one employee’s personal email account. That information includes home addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and Social Security numbers.

The Cuesta College Campus Police Department then asked for the District Attorney’s Office for assistance in the data breach investigation.

Campus police and District Attorney’s Office investigators served a search warrant at Fowler’s home on Friday related to the breach and allegedly found about 4.5 pounds of suspected methamphetamine and 7 ounces of heroin in a storage shed on the property.

Sheriff’s Office narcotics detectives were notified and also obtained a warrant to search the property, sheriff’s spokesman Tony Cipolla said, and arrested Fowler’s husband, Chad Fowler, on suspicion of possessing the drugs for sale. He remains in San Luis Obispo County Jail in lieu of $200,000 bail.

Cipolla said he could not comment further on the case.

The Cuesta College Human Resources Department, however, verified that Fowler is on leave from her duties but would not say when she was placed on leave or why due to personnel confidentiality. On Friday Stork said that the employee in question went on medical leave a few weeks before the breach occurred and had clearance to use the college database remotely but went beyond his or her authorization.

As of Wednesday morning, no arrest warrant has been issued related to the data breach, according to court records.

Police Chief Joe Arteaga said he couldn’t comment on the investigation as it remained ongoing.

Cuesta College spokeswoman Lauren Milbourne reaffirmed Wednesday that the college could not comment on the case and referred all questions to the District Attorney’s Office, which said only that as of Tuesday it had received no recommendations for any criminal charges.

Court records show that Lacey Fowler was convicted of felony burglary and forgery in an October 2007 case in San Luis Obispo County. Details on that case are no longer public, as Fowler applied for and was successful in having the convictions expunged from her record in November 2011.

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