HP private eye pleads guilty to ID theft, conspiracy charges

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Bryan Wagner, 29, a data broker hired by Hewlett-Packard (HP) last year to probe a news leak, pleaded guilty during his first appearance in a California court last week, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

In court he admitted using "fraud and deceit" to obtain 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 DOJ spokesperson in a statement.

The HP scandal began in 2005 when the company's board become suspicious of private information being leaked to journalists. Last September, the Palo Alto, Calif. firm said it had launched an investigation.

Wagner was hired by the company to determine which boardroom member was passing on information to the media. He 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 Chairwoman Patricia Dunn, who was charged in the criminal investigation, along with Kevin Hunsaker, former chief ethics officer, 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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