Manhattan U.S. Attorney And FBI Assistant Director-In-Charge Announce Arrest Of NYPD Detective For Computer Hacking
Alleged Victims Include 19 Current NYPD Officers, A Retired Officer, And A Current Member Of NYPD’s Administrative Staff
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and George Venizelos, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the arrest of EDWIN VARGAS, a detective with the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), for computer hacking crimes. VARGAS was arrested this morning outside his residence in Bronxville, New York, and will be presented in Manhattan federal court later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, Detective Edwin Vargas paid thousands of dollars for the ability to illegally invade the privacy of his fellow officers and others. He is also alleged to have illegally obtained information about two officers from a federal database to which he had access based on his status as an NYPD detective. When law enforcement officers break the laws they are sworn to uphold, they do a disservice to their fellow officers, to the Department, and to the public they serve, and it will not be tolerated.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos said: “As alleged, the defendant illegally acquired log-in information for the e-mail accounts of dozens of people, including police department co-workers. Of all places, the police department is not a workplace where one should have to be concerned about an unscrupulous fellow employee. Unlike the e-mail accounts, the defendant didn’t need to pay anyone to gain access to the NCIC database. But access is not authorization, and he had no authorization.”
According to the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
E-mail hacking services have the ability to gain unauthorized access to any e-mail account in exchange for a fee. Between March 2011 and October 2012, VARGAS, an NYPD detective assigned to a precinct in the Bronx, hired an e-mail hacking service to obtain log-in credentials, such as the password and username, for certain e-mail accounts. In total, VARGAS purchased at least 43 personal e-mail accounts and one cellular phone belonging to at least 30 different individuals, including 21 who are affiliated with the NYPD; of those 21, 19 are current NYPD officers, one is a retired NYPD officer, and one is on the NYPD’s administrative staff. After receiving the log-in credentials he had purchased from the e-mail hacking services, VARGAS accessed at least one personal e-mail account belonging to a current NYPD officer. He also accessed an on-line cellular telephone account belonging to another victim. VARGAS paid a total of more than $4,000 to entities associated with the e-mail hacking services.
An examination of the contents of the hard drive from VARGAS’s NYPD computer revealed, among other things, that the Contacts section of his g-mail account included a list of at least 20 e-mail addresses, along with what appear to be telephone numbers, home addresses, and vehicle information corresponding to those e-mail addresses, as well as what appear to be the passwords for those e-mail addresses.
VARGAS also accessed the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, a federal database, to obtain information about at least two NYPD officers without authorization. The e-mail accounts of those two officers were among the e-mail accounts VARGAS paid the e-mail hacking services to hack into so he could obtain log-in credentials.
VARGAS, 42, of Bronxville, New York, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer hacking and one count of computer hacking. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI. He also thanked the NYPD and its Internal Affairs Bureau for their cooperation and assistance in the investigation.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Rosemary Nidiry is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.