TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Former Florida Department of Health data analyst Rebekah Jones turned herself in to police Sunday night after she stated on Twitter that “the state has issued a warrant for my arrest.”
The arrest of the 31-year-old, who was fired in May for insubordination after repeatedly violating department policy about communicating with media, was following an investigation that began Nov. 10 after FDLE received a complaint from the Florida Department of Health that someone illegally accessed a state emergency alert messaging system.
A raid on her home on Dec. 7, according to investigators, was regarding a message sent from a computer at her home address to health department employees. The anonymous alert, sent on Nov. 10 to workers at FDOH, read:
“It’s time, to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know, this is wrong. You don’t have to be part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.”
The data scientist helped build Florida’s online COVID dashboard and alleged she was fired from her job because she wouldn’t follow orders to manipulate data.
During a series of Twitter posts on Saturday, Jones said: “FDLE found no evidence of a message sent last Nov. to DOH staff telling them to ‘speak out’ on any of the devices they took.”
But according to a release from the FDLE sent on Monday, agents determined that the message was sent from the Tallahassee home of Jones. “Evidence retrieved from a search warrant on Dec. 7 shows that Jones illegally accessed the system sending a message to approximately 1,750 people, and downloaded confidential FDOH data and saved it to her devices,” according to FDLE. According to investigators, the software vendor was able to stop the message before it continued to be disseminated.
Jones, who has filed a whistleblower complaint against Florida, told media outlets after the raid that she did not hack into any government system.
FDLE said through forensic analysis of an electronic device taken during the search warrant of the former employee’s home that Jones had downloaded a file containing the contact information for approximately 19,182 people across the state of Florida. “This file contained personal information to include first and last names, organizations, titles, counties located, personal email addresses and phone numbers,” and that she had saved the file to a device and to a personal cloud based storage service.
The warrant also stated that FDOH user access logs showed that another attempt was made to access the messaging system on Nov. 12, 2020.
According to the arrest warrant, FDLE suggests that Jones not be allowed computer access, no internet access, and no contact with the witnesses or those people whose personal information was acquired through the download.
Jones was booked into the Leon County Detention Facility.
On Dec. 11, during a press conference, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that Jones became known because she alleged a conspiracy theory at the Department of Health. “It is unfounded and never proven at all. She was fired because she wasn’t doing a good job. You think that would be the end of it. Obviously, she has issues.”
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