Agents Arrest Background Specialist at Hackers Forum

By Brian Krebs
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Steven Rombom never got a chance to share the results of an hours-long experiment in getting someone's background at a hackers convention in New York City last week.

Before he could sit down to lead a Saturday afternoon panel discussion entitled "Privacy is Dead . . . Get Over It," federal agents moved in to arrest him for his methods of digging up information on people.

The arrest of Rombom, who also goes by Steven Rambam, was unrelated to the experiment at the Hackers on Planet Earth, or HOPE, conference.

Authorities allege that Rombom, owner and chief executive of the online investigative service Pallorium Inc., is accused of impersonating a federal officer this year while trying to locate a government informant involved in a 2003 money-laundering indictment of a former Brooklyn assistant district attorney.

He faces charges of witness tampering and obstruction of justice. He appeared in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York yesterday and was released on his own recognizance. He is scheduled to appear again on Aug. 7.

Rombom's fellow panelists said Rombom was escorted out of the conference along with his laptop and other equipment that contained the PowerPoint slides that were to make up the bulk of his scheduled two-hour presentation.

"If you know Steve then you know he's very flamboyant, and at first I thought it was just PR, you know?" said Kelly Riddle, a private investigator from San Antonio who was to speak alongside Rombom. "So, they asked him to step out in the hallway, placed the handcuffs on him and started to lead him off."

Rombom was scheduled to discuss how he dug up -- in just over four hours of searching private and public databases -- more than 500 pages worth of data on Rick Dakan, who was attending the conference and had agreed to participate in the project.

"All I had given him was my e-mail and name," Dakan said. "He knew everywhere I'd lived, every car I had driven, and even someone else in Alabama who was using my Social Security number since 1983. He found all my friends, pictures of friends, knew about my brother's criminal history."

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