Private Investigator faces Jail for Hacking

What a disgrace: A private investigator, Eric Saldarriaga, 41, got nailed for hacking into peoples’ e-mails. He may get six months in the can. Is six months reasonable for this, though?

4DA recent online New York Times article quotes a prosecutor who points out that hackers could be deterred by the threat of harsh penalties—because the mind of a hacker operates with a lot of thinking, vs. the mind of someone who impulsively pulls out a gun or knife.

So what did Saldarriaga do exactly? He paid an overseas company to get the login information for e-mail accounts: a hacker-for-hire deal. His clients included lawyers and other private investigators. He was known for gaining access to e-mail accounts without the user’s knowledge, so this is why he got some of his cases in the first place.

Breaking into e-mails is a serious crime because it can involve the accounts of big companies, revealing their trade secrets and other classified information.

One of Saldarriaga’s victims was journalist Tony Ortega, who has spent about 20 years writing about Scientology. Ortega believes that this controversial church’s reps hired Saldarriaga to get information about Ortega.

Ortega, as well as possibly most of the other victims, are adamant about learning just who hired Saldarriaga to conduct his dirty deed. One of the other victims is a professional gambler who secretly donates to charity. The Times article quotes the gambler: “For this one guy, to be sentenced today for a crime he did for other people would be a miscarriage of justice.”

Why aren’t the people who hired Saldarriaga also facing justice?

Saldarriaga’s lawyer, Peter Brill, gunned for just a three-year probationary sentence for his client because he was remorseful. In fact, his crime got him only $5,000.

Saldarriaga himself even pleaded with the judge who’s overseeing the case that he deserves some concessions because one of his actions, he claims, may have spared a woman from harm.

But that doesn’t nullify the reality that Saldarriaga intruded upon peoples’ privacy without their knowledge. And got paid for it.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to discussing identity theft prevention.