Former Department of Commerce Agent Indicted for Making a False Statement and Exceeding Authorized Access to a Government Database
DOJ Seal
September 19, 2007
United States Attorney Scott N. Schools
Northern District of California
Contact: Natalya LaBauve
(415) 436-7055
Natalya.LaBauve@usdoj.gov

Former Department of Commerce Agent Indicted for Making a False Statement and Exceeding Authorized Access to a Government Database

Defendant Used Department of Homeland Security Database to Track a Woman and her Family

SAN JOSE United States Attorney Scott N. Schools announced that a federal grand jury in San Jose indicted Benjamin Robinson, age 40, of Oakland, on September 19, 2007, with making a false statement to a government agency, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001, and unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(2) and (c)(2)(B)(ii).

According to the indictment, Mr. Robinson was sworn in as a Special Agent for the Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement, Bureau of Industry and Security, on March 31, 1997. In November 2002, Mr. Robinson began a romantic relationship with a person identified in the indictment by her initials, S.S. The relationship lasted approximately seven months and ended acrimoniously. The indictment alleges that, during the course of their relationship and after S.S. tried to end it, Mr. Robinson made numerous threats to S.S., including threatening to have her deported and to kill her and her family.

The indictment further alleges that from approximately May 2003 through March 2004, Mr. Robinson accessed a government database known as the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) at least 163 times to track the travel patterns of S.S. and her family. Federal agents are authorized to use that database only in the performance of their official duties and not for personal reasons. In addition, law enforcement agents receive training in TECS security and privacy, and are issued unique passwords to access TECS so that their use of the system can be monitored.

The indictment further alleges that on June 1, 2004, agents from the Department of Commerce interviewed Mr. Robinson, and he admitted that he had accessed the TECS database approximately ten to fifteen times to track S.S.s travel in and out of the United States. In fact, at the time Mr. Robinson made that statement, he was well aware that he had accessed the system at least 163 times between May 1, 2003 and March 22, 2004.

United States Attorney Scott N. Schools stated: "Those of us who are sworn to public service must continually strive to uphold the highest standards of professional conduct. Federal officers who violate the public trust by abusing their official positions to pursue a private vendetta must be held accountable for those actions."

Mr. Robinson is scheduled to make his initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Richard Seeborg on October 11, 2007, at 9:30 a.m. in San Jose.

The maximum statutory penalties for each count of making a false statement to a government agency and unlawfully obtaining information form a protected computer are up to five years of imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, and a three year term of supervised release. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. 3553.

An indictment contains only allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, Mr. Robinson must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Susan Knight is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Susan Kreider. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the United States Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, led by Special Agent Christopher Paige and Special Agent-in-Charge Keith Teamer.

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