Hackers publish private information about L.A. police officers

Hackers publish private information about L.A. police officers

Los Angeles Times

By Andrew Blankstein 


February 24, 2012



Photo: LAPD officers outisde police headquarters.

Credit: Los Angeles Times



The FBI is probing an Internet breach in which hackers publicly posted private information belonging to more than 100 local law enforcement officers who are part of the Los Angeles County Police Canine Assn.

Tony Vairo, a San Fernando police officer, who is president of the group, told The Times that they were contacted by the FBI Tuesday morning informing them that information belonging to its members, who include the Los Angeles police and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies, had been compromised.

“I’m appalled that our website was breached,” Vairo said. “It’s not right and we will pursue it [a case] on every level, state or federal.”

Vairo described the FBI probe into the hacking incident as being part of an ongoing criminal investigation. FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller would not comment on what, if any, involvement the agency had in the case.

The incident, first reported Tuesday by CNET.com, comes two months after personal information about more than two dozen members of the Los Angeles Police Department’s command staff was anonymously posted on an Internet site.

In that case, the hackers posted officers’ property records, campaign contributions, biographical information and, in a few cases, the names of family members, including children. But that information was gleaned from public records.

Authorities said the current intrusion is different because the information gleaned from the association’s website was not available to the public.

Marshall E. McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officer’s Assn., which has three members whose information was compromised, said his association has contacted the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office to ask for a criminal investigation.

The postings were linked to from a publicly available Twitter account, where unnamed activists claimed responsibility for the information dump. The information was posted on a site that allows users to anonymously input data. This type of site has increasingly been used to post personal information of individuals who raise the ire of online activists. The practice is known as “doxing.”



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FBI Turns Off Thousands of GPS Devices After Supreme Court Ruling

FBI Turns Off Thousands of GPS Devices After Supreme Court Ruling



Wall Street Journal

By Julia Angwin

February 25, 2012







The Supreme Court’s recent ruling overturning the warrantless use of GPS tracking devices has caused a “sea change” inside the U.S. Justice Department, according to FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann.

Mr. Weissmann, speaking at a University of San Francisco conference called “Big Brother in the 21st Century” on Friday, said that the court ruling prompted the FBI to turn off about 3,000 GPS tracking devices that were in use.

These devices were often stuck underneath cars to track the movements of the car owners. In U.S. v. Jones, the Supreme Court ruled that using a device to track a car owner without a search warrant violated the law.

After the ruling, the FBI had a problem collecting the devices that it had turned off, Mr. Weissmann said. In some cases, he said, the FBI sought court orders to obtain permission to turn the devices on briefly – only in order to locate and retrieve them.

Mr. Weissmann said that the FBI is now working to develop new guidelines for the use of GPS devices. He said the agency is also working on guidelines to cover the broader implications of the court decision beyond GPS devices.

For instance, he said, agency is now “wrestling” with the legality of whether agents can lift up the lid of a trash can without committing trespass. The majority opinion in U.S. v. Jones held that the agents had trespassed when placing the GPS device on a car without warrant.

He said the agency is also considering the implications of the concurring justices – whose arguments were largely based on the idea that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the totality of their movements, even if those movements are in public.

“From a law enforcement perspective, even though its not technically holding, we have to anticipate how it’s going to go down the road,” Mr. Weissmann said.


Direct Link:  http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2012/02/25/fbi-turns-off-thousands-of-gps-devices-after-supreme-court-ruling/

Website matches targets and hit man!

Website matches targets and hit man


The case began with a website called HitmanForHire.net. The designer thought it was a joke, but the FBI and Irish police soon learned that Essam Ahmed Eid, a Las Vegas poker dealer, was in business.

Los Angeles Times
By Victoria Kim
February 28, 2012
FBI Agent Ingerd Sotelo 

FBI Agent Ingerd Sotelo helped unravel the case of the hit-man website.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / February 27, 2012)


As with other online businesses, the site promised convenience and efficiency.

With a few clicks of the mouse, one could hire a professional hit man ready to kill “at a moment’s notice.” On the “employment” section of the site, would-be assassins could upload resumes for consideration.

“Thanks to the Internet, ordering a hit has never been easier,” read the site HitmanForHire.net, in a chipper, infomercial-like tone.

Most thought it was a joke, including the Web designer in Florida commissioned to create the site. FBI Agent Ingerd Sotelo, who had investigated perhaps half a dozen hit-man cases in her 12-year career, probably wouldn’t have taken it seriously if she came across it Web-surfing.

Except there was a terrified 23-year-old woman sitting in front of her, pale with genuine fear, saying someone had used the site to put a $37,000 hit on her head.

The man behind HitmanForHire.net showed up at Woodland Hills mortgage broker Anne Lauren Royston’s office one Saturday morning in 2006, wearing head-to-toe black and driving a yellow Corvette.

He was middle-aged and tan, with a thick mustache and a heavy accent, and brought along a woman with cigarette breath he called his wife. He carried a black folder holding numerous photos of Royston and an e-mail message: “I want her done by a shot to the head.” The message was from her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend.

His client, the man said, had deposited $17,000 for the job.

The hit man calmly told Royston she reminded him of his daughter. Then he made her an offer: Pay him the balance on the contract, and he would let her live. She had three days.

Sotelo, who other agents in the violent crime squad knew as the “prison girl” for the number of federal lockup cases she’s investigated, now sat in the same conference room with Royston. It was Tuesday, the deadline the man had given.

Royston easily picked him out in a photo lineup. In either a sophomoric gaffe or a sign of brazen confidence, he had given Royston his real name.

Essam Ahmed Eid of Las Vegas seemed an unlikely killer — or at least one who hid it incredibly well. The Egyptian-born man was 51, had a heart condition, and worked as a poker dealer at the Bellagio. He lived in a four-bedroom tract home in North Las Vegas with his family, including a daughter in college.

Sotelo recorded a series of calls to Royston in which Eid and the woman purported to be his wife repeated their demands for money. At the agent’s direction, Royston asked for more time to come up with the cash. But a couple of weeks later, the man seemed to disappear.

Following her instincts, the agent pulled up a database of entry and exit records into and out of the United States. Sure enough, Eid, along with a woman named Teresa Engle, had left the country.

But the couple hadn’t flown to Eid’s native Egypt, or some remote tropical paradise with no extradition treaties with the United States.

Eid, it appeared, was in western Ireland.

Around the same time, detectives in the quaint riverbank town of Ennis — billed on an Irish travel site as “the most endearing town” — were scratching their heads over a similar situation.

It had started with a cut-and-dry burglary case: Two laptops were stolen from the office of wealthy businessman P.J. Howard. The next day, a man contacted one of Howard’s two sons and told him someone wanted their father and both sons dead, for 130,000 euros. But for a discounted sum on the balance of the contract — 100,000 euros — he would let them live.

The Irish police — Gardai, as they are known — swiftly arrested the man. Their suspect was Eid.

Sotelo learned of the arrest through the FBI’s attache in London. Investigators on both sides of the Atlantic compared notes but weren’t sure exactly what they were looking at — an audacious, bumbling extortion scam, or something more.

For answers, federal agents raided Eid’s Las Vegas home. The “mother lode,” as Sotelo later recalled, was on the family computer. Over about a week, she scoured its contents.

Through the website, people around the world had written to Eid — some clearly more serious than others. A fifth-grade girl in Kentucky wanted another girl in her class dead. Several volunteered to kill for hire. One woman wanted help committing suicide.

Two women, one in Pennsylvania and another in Ireland, confided about men in their lives who drove them to want to kill.

Marissa Mark, a collections agent in Allentown, Pa., was to the point about the new girlfriend of the man who left her behind and moved to the West Coast: “I need someone by the name of Lauren Royston killed ASAP. She is located in Los Angeles, CA.”

She had sent a $17,000 deposit through PayPal by cobbling together charges on three stolen credit cards.

Sharon Collins, a divorcee in Ennis, went into far more lurid detail about how she wanted her lover P.J. Howard killed, and why.

In e-mails that went on for pages, she told Eid that his two sons were to be killed first. Then, it should appear as though Howard jumped to his death from his 14th-floor penthouse vacation home in Spain.

“Remember, I need it to look like he has committed suicide after hearing about his sons,” she wrote.

She wanted to inherit Howard’s fortune, Collins wrote, but told Eid that wasn’t the main motivation. Howard, she wrote, “wants to control every part of my life.”

“The main reason I’m doing this is because he is continually trying to force me to go out and pick up a stranger for sex…. The mother of my boys is not a slut.”

As a deposit, Collins sent 15,000 euros in cash wrapped in brown paper to Eid’s home.

His clients may have thought they were emailing a veteran killer, but his computer records painted Eid as a novice when it came to murder for hire. After launching the website a few months earlier, Eid appeared to have done what any modern-day neophyte would do with a new task — he turned to Google.

Between numerous searches for Clay Aiken — Eid’s wife was an avid fan — Sotelo found records showing that Eid had surfed the Web about his new trade. He looked up how to make a homemade silencer from toilet parts, attempted to place an Internet order for cyanide, and researched ricin — the castor bean-derived poison famously used in the 1978 assassination of Bulgarian dissident journalist Georgi Markov through an umbrella gun.

“The powder you have made is tasteless and odorless. It can be sprinkled into soup or placed in a drink or inhaled,” read one Web page that Eid searched, which offered a 15-step instruction on making ricin. “It takes about 3-4 days to act and when it does the guy will be dead within a week.”

At the home, agents found indications that Eid had utilized his research. There was a 9mm pistol with a homemade rubber silencer, and a shriveled castor bean plant in the backyard.

With the information, Sotelo pressed Teresa Engle about the ricin. Engle had married Eid a year earlier, even though he was legally married to another woman — the Aiken fan. All three lived in the Las Vegas home. Engle would later tell a federal judge Eid “dominated and controlled” her.

Whether it was because of Eid’s control or by her own will, Engle had accompanied Eid to Woodland Hills and then to Ireland. After Irish authorities decided not to charge her because she had little direct involvement there, she quickly flew back to the United States and began cooperating with the FBI.

Engle described how they made ricin in the garage — boiling and grinding the beans, eventually producing a fine powder. They had packed it into a contact lens case, and flown with it across the Atlantic, Engle told Sotelo. It was in Eid’s bag of toiletries.

Sotelo quickly called her Irish counterparts. To their horror, his toiletry bag had been searched at the time of Eid’s arrest and returned to him because it contained the medication he needed for his heart condition.

Irish authorities raided his jail cell, and seized the bag. They found the lens case.

It was empty.

In 2008, Sotelo arrived in Dublin to testify in Eid’s trial and found herself being chased by cameramen like a Hollywood starlet.

The case was a sensation there. Considering Howard’s fortune, Collins’ beauty, the flirtatious tone of email exchanges between Collins and Eid — “You’re very handsome,” she wrote after they sent each other photos — the story was tabloid gold.

Then there were the lab results that came back from the lens case: It tested positive for traces of ricin.

After a six-week trial, with every sordid detail splashed across the national media, Eid was convicted of extortion and burglary, but acquitted of solicitation of murder. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

Last year, he was extradited to Los Angeles to face charges. On the eve of his trial, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy relating to extortion and received a 33-month prison sentence. Engle was sentenced to a lighter eight months because of her cooperation.

Collins, dubbed the “Devil in the Red Dress” by Irish media for a photo she sent to Eid of herself, was convicted of soliciting murder and sentenced to six years in prison, according to press accounts there. Mark, who hired Eid to kill Royston, was sentenced in Pennsylvania last month, also to six years.

Throughout, Eid has kept mum about what it was that led him to such a drastic midlife career change, smiling enigmatically at the Irish cameras and occasionally waving to them. Sotelo said the motivation appeared to be financial — he seemed to enjoy the finer things in life, like his prized Corvette.

But in the end, Eid’s Web venture may have revealed far more about the people enticed by its promises than the man behind it.

Eid now sits in federal prison in Mississippi after having served his sentence in Ireland. He could be released as early as November 2013, just after celebrating his 58th birthday.




Direct Link:  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-hitman-for-hire-20120228,0,6070854,full.story

Two police officers hurt in skirmish at state Capitol

Two police officers hurt in skirmish at state Capitol

Occupy protesters and white supremacists clash briefly before authorities intervene.

Los Angeles Times
By Michael J. Mishak
February 28, 2012
CHP officer 

A CHP bicycle officer was injured after tackling a protestor during a skirmish at the state Capitol in Sacramento.

(Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee / February 27, 2012)




Reporting from Sacramento—

Two police officers were injured Monday during a clash between Occupy protesters and white supremacists that spilled into the streets around the state Capitol.

Authorities said the skirmish erupted as officers escorted members of the South Africa Project to their cars after an afternoon demonstration on the south steps of the Capitol. Counter-protesters, including members of the Occupy Oakland movement, intercepted the group, hurling rocks, glass bottles and paint-filled plastic eggs.

Two California Highway Patrol officers were taken from the scene by ambulance to be treated for minor injuries, said Officer Sean Kennedy, a CHP spokesman.

Authorities said the Occupy protesters outnumbered the South Africa Project members, who were at the Capitol to draw attention to what they described as black-on-white violence in South Africa. Eyewitnesses described a chaotic scene, saying police moved quickly to contain the violence after bottles were thrown.

“It got really chaotic really fast,” said Tricia Blakeman, a member of Occupy Sacramento who was at the Capitol to protest the pro-white demonstrators. “They tackled everybody who looked like they had a bottle.”

According to the CHP, the Occupy crowd turned on law enforcement officers after the South Africa Project adherents fled in their cars. Police arrested four counter-protesters.

An hour after the skirmish started, the streets were quiet. Police had cordoned off several blocks near the Capitol, and officers in riot gear and on horseback stood at street corners to separate remaining protesters.



Direct Link:   http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-sacramento-clash-20120228,0,3445881.story?track=rss