U.S. News

Investigator Faces Federal Charges in HP Spy Probe

Associated Press

A private investigator accused of posing as a journalist to access the reporter's private phone records as part of the boardroom spying scandal at Hewlett-Packard was charged with federal identity theft and conspiracy charges, prosecutors said.

Bryan Wagner is accused of using the Social Security number of the unidentified journalist to illegally gain access to the phone logs, according to the criminal charges filed in San Jose federal court by U.S. Attorney Kevin V. Ryan's office.

Wagner is also accused of conspiring to illegally obtain and transmit personal information on HP directors, journalists and employees as part of the computer and printer maker's crusade to ferret out the source of boardroom leaks to the media.

A call to Wagner's defense lawyer, Stephen Naratil, was not immediately returned Wednesday. An HP spokesman declined to comment.

Wagner is one of five people who were criminally charged in California state court for their alleged roles in the ill-fated spying probe.

Former HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn, former HP ethics chief Kevin Hunsaker, and three outside investigators -- Ronald DeLia, Matthew DePante and Wagner -- all have pleaded not guilty in Santa Clara County Superior Court to four charges each of identity theft, fraud and conspiracy.

The alleged criminal behavior centers around a form of subterfuge known as "pretexting," or pretending to be someone else to trick telephone companies into giving up personal information on customers.

The federal charges accuse Wagner of obtaining a reporter's Social Security number from other unidentified co-conspirators, using that information to set up an online account with the telephone company in the reporter's name and accessing the detailed phone logs.

It was unclear whether Wagner was in custody.

Luke Macaulay, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of California, declined to comment on whether any others implicated in the spying scandal would be charged.