It is not a good week for FBI undercover sting operations. After yesterday's revelation that the FBI planted a phony, malware-loaded Seattle Times article, we're now getting wind of another FBI scheme in which agents impersonated internet repairmen. As if we needed another reason not to trust the cable guy.
Apparently, this past summer, federal agents suspected a Vegas hotel of housing an illegal online betting ring after an employee told security personnel that some of the hotel equipment "appeared to be set up for an illegal gambling operation." It's unclear whether the authorities ever actually attempted to obtain a legal search warrant, but either way, they clearly decided to take matters into their own hands.
Over two days in early July, FBI agents worked with a hotel computer contractor and the state's gaming control board to shut off the Internet at different times and at one point delivered a laptop computer to try to see what was happening, according to the court filing. Investigators eventually gained access after they turned off the Internet connection to two suites, impersonated repair technicians and recorded video inside. Authorities later used the videos to obtain a warrant to arrest the men.
Unfortunately for the FBI, illegally obtained evidence generally doesn't hold up in a court of law, meaning that their wacky hijinks were likely all for naught. As former federal prosecutor, Mark Rasch, told the AP, "Police are allowed to use a certain kind of subterfuge, but what they can't do is create a certain kind of circumstance."
So far, all of the defendants deny any wrongdoing, and unless the FBI can procure some legal evidence, chances are the Bureau won't be able to prove otherwise. Guys, maybe it's time to start playing by the rules. [Associated Press]