A New York detective allegedly hired hackers to spy on 19 fellow cops and at least 11 others - apparently in a bid to discover if any of them were sleeping with his ex.
Edwin Vargas, a 42-year-old Bronx investigator, is accused of spending $4,050 on an email-hacking service to obtain the usernames and passwords for 43 message inboxes in, it is believed, an obsessive quest to keep tabs on his former girlfriend.
He was arrested on Tuesday and appeared before a magistrate judge charged with conspiracy to commit computer hacking.
The detective, of Bronxville, New York, it is claimed, had suspected his ex-lover, with whom he had split after they had a child together, had started a new relationship with a fellow officer. The veteran cop of 20 years handed over between $50 and $250 to unnamed hackers for the login details of each inbox, it is claimed.
Vargas accessed at least one of his fellow cops' accounts, the Feds said. He is also charged with unlawfully accessing the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database by allegedly running unauthorised checks on two serving officers.
The prosecution also accused Vargas of paying hackers to snoop on the records of a mobile phone account belonging to one of his targets, as an FBI statement on the case explained:
After receiving the log-in credentials he had purchased from the e-mail hacking services, Vargas accessed at least one personal e-mail account belonging to a current NYPD officer. He also accessed an online cellular telephone account belonging to another victim. Vargas paid a total of more than $4,000 to entities associated with the e-mail hacking services.
An examination of the contents of the hard drive from Vargas’ NYPD computer revealed, among other things, that the Contacts section of his Gmail account included a list of at least 20 e-mail addresses, along with what appear to be telephone numbers, home addresses, and vehicle information corresponding to those e-mail addresses, as well as what appear to be the passwords for those e-mail addresses.
Vargas was released on bail after posting a $50,000 bond. Each of the two charges against him, allegedly committed between March 2011 and October 2012, carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison if he is convicted. "The charges contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty," the Feds added in their joint statement with Manhattan's US attorney.
At this stage, the officials omitted any mention of a motive for Vargas' alleged wrongdoing but the New York Daily News, like the New York Times, claimed the suspect was motivated by a desire to spy of the mother of his three-year-old son. ®