January 10, 2007 7:15 PM PST

Feds charge investigator in HP spy case

One of the private investigators hired to ferret out the source of a news leak at Hewlett-Packard has been charged with federal identity theft and conspiracy.

Bryan Wagner is accused as masquerading as an unidentified journalist in order to obtain the reporter's private phone records, according to a copy of a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California.

Wagner, along with Patricia Dunn, the former chairman of HP, and three others have already been charged in California with four felonies, including identity theft.

Wagner could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Tasked with finding out who among HP's board of directors was leaking information to the media, the five are accused of obtaining private records belonging to HP employees, board members and journalists through false pretenses.

Wagner, who could face a maximum of seven years in prison, is the only one of the five to be charged with federal crimes.

Calls to the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco were not returned Wednesday.

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5 comments

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Didn't know it was a crime....
....impersonating a Journalist. There are few at ABC, CBS, CNBC, CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, and NBC that ought to be tad concerned.
Posted by 1captjack (3 comments )
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that's the way it goes
saying you're a certain person when you're not is a crime, especially when you use that stolen identity to obtain personal information. the P.I. should have found a better way to get the job done.
Posted by vonhot (1 comment )
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The police do it all the time....
Police are allowed and even coached in how to lie to get investigative information. They can lie to you all they want until they are under oath. They can impersonate anyone, give any kind of false (and potentially damaging) information in the process, and not be held responsible. Exactly how is a private investigator, or a Journalist expected to get at the truth. Today, if they get caught, that is the risk they take. In our current society, what would happen if you reported the board leaks to the police or FBI? would they investigate? No, they won't. Would they give you access to the resources to investigate for yourself? No, they will not.

I personally am involved in a fraud litigation (fraud was committed against me), with plenty of evidence even in the public record to show and prove it, but do you think reporting it to the police or a district attorney will get you anywhere? No, it won't, they will tell you that you have to file suit against them in civil court, even though it is a criminal act. Why?

I am reminded of a scene from Heavy Metal..."$100 to report a crime, $500.00 for an investigation, $1000 for an honest investigation....Here's a dollar, thanks for nothing."

There should be a process with the Private Investigator or Journalist Licenses that permits this kind of investigative capability, if it only resides in the hands of the Police and Federal investigators, we are doomed, because the private citizen or company will be unable to seek justice. Why do you think that so many 'white collar' crimes go unpunished, or undiscovered for so long, because the authorities litterally do not care unless there are big $$$, or public safety on the line, or PR issues if they don't do something. In the current case against HP of course there are big $$$ to obtain from HP for this 'violation of privacy', but where were they when HP's privacy was violated? (No where because there was no money in it for them at that point, only a cost.) You get the justice you pay for, then you pay again for the justice you get...

People keep saying that the PI should have found another way, but there is no other way, that is not even more privacy violating than 'pretexting'. I do not agree with the practice, but given no other option, what should be done? (honest question) Let someone get away with it, or risk a little to stop it.

Honestly, I would trust an HP investigator's handling of my personal information more than the Phone company, Police, FBI, CIA, NSA, Microsoft, or CNET. I would trust that they would only look for evidence of the issue under investigation, and disregard (and destroy) anything not relevant to it, and keep it all secured from public release. I could not say that about any of the others.....has anyone actually seen any of the investigatees phone records? No, but we all know a former CIA agents identity, we all knew some contents of a gov report on the war in Iraq, before it was released, even to the president...Did anyone in the general public know of the board leak, the investigation, or pretexting before the person responsible was caught? No, so who is guilty of more privacy violation?
Posted by chash360 (394 comments )
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Journalists suck
The fact you trust HP more than Microsoft proves nothing.
Posted by Ryo Hazuki (378 comments )
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Supporting HP
HP is a household name for printers, having also won public support for good treatment of its employees. I still believe that virus contracts were the original false pretenses orchestrating access to user's HP's leading to January 2003 when it suddenly stopped. Factory refurbished HP PC's became the forum for testing the limits of OS software piracy to make them reliable.
Posted by Martin Ozolin (13 comments )
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