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Teens arrested in VA laptop theft

Two 19-year-olds are charged with taking a laptop and hard drive with personal data of millions of veterans.

Maryland police arrested two teens on Saturday in connection with the theft of a laptop and external hard drive with information from the Department of Veteran Affairs.

The laptop and external drive, which were both taken in a May 3 burglary, contained personal and financial information on more than 25 million veterans, active-duty military personnel and their spouses.

According to a police statement, the accused said they were unaware that the laptop and hard drive contained sensitive data until the theft was publicized in the news.

The Montgomery County Police Department said in a statement that the two Rockville, Md., natives, Jesus Alex Pineda and Christian Brian Montano, both age 19, were charged with first-degree burglary and the theft of items worth more than $500. Montano was also charged with conspiracy to commit the crimes. Charges are also pending on a third suspect, who will be treated as a juvenile.

The county police have been working with the FBI and the Veterans Affairs Department's Office of Inspector General on the case. They received a tip on June 28 that led to the . The police and FBI continued pursuing the case. A break in the case on Friday led police detectives to the Saturday arrests.

The stolen laptop was a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion ZV5360, and the external hard drive was an HP PC170.

The theft of sensitive information along with hardware, a recent problem for both the government and the private sector, has prompted outrage and subsequent tightening of security standards in some organizations.

On June 23, the Office of Budget and Management, which operates under the White House, gave government agencies 45 days to comply with new standards for the retrieval and storage of sensitive data. Accounting firm Ernst & Young, which lost data on 243,000 customers through a laptop theft, installed password protection and encryption software on its employees' laptops in May.