ISPLA ALERT-PIs to plead guilty in California on HP Phone Scandal
- Two private investigators to be sentenced in federal court regarding HP
A July 12, 2012 AP item reports that two former private investigators are
facing sentencing on charges of allegedly using false identities to gain
access to the phone records of Hewlett-Packard board members, employees and
journalists. Joseph DePante and his son, Matthew DePante, were to appear in
U.S. District Court in San Jose, CA, each to be sentenced to three years of
probation and six months of electronic monitoring as part of their plea deal
A former NCISS board member, Joseph DePante was known in the investigative
community as a PI and information broker providing telephone information to
both private and public sector investigators. The DePantes operated under
the business name of Action Research Group. Both plead guilty to conspiracy
to commit Social Security fraud in February.
Federal prosecutors said HP investigators had hired the DePantes to
ascertain who was leaking boardroom information to journalists which had
commenced in 2005.
The DePantes' allegedly used the illegal practice of "pretexting" or
pretending to be someone else to secretly secure copies of private telephone
logs. The firm directed other investigators posing as account holders or
phone company employees to illegally obtain personal information including
phone numbers, Social Security numbers, birth dates and call logs,
authorities said. When the alleged illegal activity was undertaken a federal
statute specifically banning the use of pretexting to gain telephone
consumer information had not yet been enacted.
According to the AP: "During the covert operation, prosecutors said that HP
and private investigators obtained the confidential information of the
company's board members and employees as well as reporters for the New York
Times, the Wall Street Journal, Cnet and these reporters' families."
"The Social Security Number was an essential piece of information required
to obtain the subject's telephone record and other information...," court
documents said. "The Social Security Number is, for many Americans, the
closely-guarded key of all of their financial and personal records."
In 2007, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge dismissed charges against
then-HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn in connection with the case. The judge's
decision came after the state attorney general's office reduced charges
against several other defendants, including Matthew DePante. "At worst, the
conduct in this case amounted to boardroom politics and a betrayal of trust
and honor, rather than criminal activity," the judge said, according to a
transcript of his remarks supplied by the attorney general's office.
He said the investigation nevertheless "achieved much public good,"
including helping spur the passage of state and federal legislation
specifically outlawing "pretexting."
California had reached a $14.5 million civil settlement with HP in December
2006, which was slated to fund state and local investigations into privacy
rights and intellectual property violations.
ISPLA Director of Government Affairs
Resource to Investigative and Security Professionals
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