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A History of Success

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This article briefly describes four cases cleared by the U.S. Secret Service electronic crime squad and the "spin-off" New York Electronic Crimes Task Force in the years 1993, 1995, 1997, and 1999.

In 1993, a former bank president convinced the manager of an upscale mall in Manchester, CT, to rent him space for an automated teller machine (ATM); however, the machine installed was a fake designed to collect credit card, debit card, and PIN numbers. After a 10-year crime spree with this scam, the perpetrators were arrested by Secret Service and Drug Enforcement Administration agents while they were preparing to set up another ATM in a Florida mall. In 1995, Secret Service agents posed as drug dealers in search of cheap telecommunications equipment after receiving a tip that it was being sold illegally and internationally on the Internet. The first e-mail wiretap in the United States was used to eavesdrop on a transaction. Posing as drug dealers, agents agreed to purchase a piece of equipment that intercepts wireless messages for use in their drug business. The seller was subsequently arrested, convicted, and sentenced to serve 51 months and a probationary period. In 1997, officials of Breaking News Network, a legitimate news agency, were arrested after Federal officers found that they had been intercepting the voice and text messages of the New York police and fire departments' commanders so they could scoop their rival media outlets. In a 1999 case, Federal agents arrested a man who was selling equipment to intercept information transmitted between police headquarters and the mobile data terminals in patrol cars, as well as between ambulances and hospitals.

Date Published: January 1, 2000