HP PI pleads guilty to identity theft

A private investigator, hired by HP, pleaded guilty to charges of identity theft and conspiracy in the US on Friday.

Bryan Wagner, 29, a data broker hired by the IT giant last year to probe the source of a news leak, pleaded guilty to the charges during his first appearance in a Californian court last week, according to a statement by the US Attorney.

In court he admitted using "fraud and deceit" to obtain the private telephone records of company directors and journalists. The case will be the first conviction resulting from the HP boardroom leak scandal, with the Colorado resident facing up to seven years in prison. He will be sentenced in June.

"In pleading guilty to two felony counts, Wagner admitted that he was paid as part of a conspiracy that made fraudulent use of Social Security numbers and other confidential information to obtain the personal phone records of reporters and HP officials, as well as the personal records of these individuals' family members," said a US Department of Justice spokesperson in a statement.

The HP scandal began in 2005 when the company's board become suspicious of private information being leaked to journalists. In September last year the IT firm announced that it had begun an investigation.

Wagner was hired by the company in an attempt to determine which boardroom member was passing on the information to the media. He then allegedly posed as a reporter and a HP director and conned telephone company employees into divulging private information.

Disclosure of HP's probe led to the resignation of chairman Patricia Dunn, who was charged in the criminal investigation, along with former chief ethics officer, Kevin Hunsaker and former security contractor, Ronald DeLia, on various counts including conspiracy and identity fraud.

HP did not return requests for comment.

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