Dunn, Four Others Charged in Hewlett Surveillance Case
Thursday, October 5, 2006
Former Hewlett-Packard Co. chairman Patricia C. Dunn and four others were charged with fraud and conspiracy in California yesterday, one month after HP disclosed that it had conducted a wide-ranging spying operation to identify the source of leaks to the news media.
A criminal complaint was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer. In addition to Dunn, former HP chief ethics director and senior legal counsel Kevin Hunsaker, who supervised a key phase of the operation, was charged, along with three outsiders who did surveillance work for the Silicon Valley computer icon.
All five were charged with four felonies under California statutes. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of three years and a maximum fine of $25,000.
The charges were filed on an extraordinary day in which Lockyer, who is seeking election as state treasurer, declared in a statement that "people inside and outside HP violated privacy rights and broke state law" during the company's "misguided" effort to plug media leaks.
The charges came one day after Dunn, 53, learned from her doctor that her advanced ovarian cancer had recurred and she needed to undergo chemotherapy, according to a source close to Dunn. It is her third bout with cancer in recent years; she previously suffered from breast cancer and melanoma.
Dunn's attorney, Jim Brosnahan, issued a statement last night saying the charges "are being brought against the wrong person at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons. They are the culmination of a well-financed and highly orchestrated disinformation campaign."
Charged along with Dunn and Hunsaker, 41, were Boston security contractor Ronald R. DeLia, 56, and private investigators Bryan Wagner, 29, of Littleton, Colo., and Matthew Depante, 27, manager of Action Research Group of Melbourne, Fla. They were accused of participating in long-running HP surveillance operation that involved the use of false pretenses to gain access to personal phone records of HP board members, journalists and their families, a practice known as pretexting.
Each was charged with fraudulent wire communications, wrongful use of computer data, identity theft and conspiracy to commit those three crimes. The complaint alleges that the defendants used "false and fraudulent pretenses" to obtain confidential information from a phone company, including billing records, belonging to 12 people. Dunn, who first stepped down as chairman and then resigned from the board last month, repeatedly has said that she was given assurances that the methods used in the leak probe were legal.
The criminal charges come a few days after Dunn, Hunsaker and the company's chairman and chief executive, Mark V. Hurd, appeared before a congressional investigative subcommittee to answer questions about the surveillance methods HP used.
The tactics, in addition to pretexting, included following or watching board members, journalists and their family members at home and at conferences; and conducting a sting operation on a reporter.
The two-phase spying operation began in 2005 and ended this past spring.
According to court papers filed yesterday, the telephone, fax and cellphone accounts of more than 24 people were accessed in the HP probe. HP's investigators reviewed 33 months' of phone records and about 1,750 calls from 590 telephone numbers.