Yehuda Katz, a high-ranking auxiliary inspector in the New York City Police Department (NYPD), was arrested, last Tuesday, on charges of hacking restricted FBI and NYPD databases, as part of an elaborate scam directed at accident victims. Posing as an attorney working for the factitious “Katz and Katz law firm”, the defendant duped hundreds of individuals with promises of settling their legal cases. The ruse involved planting tracking devices and video cameras inside the Traffic Safety Office of the 70th Precinct, through which the accused retrieved personal details of over 6,400 individuals.
An auxiliary inspector since 1997, Katz, 45, was assigned to NYPD’s 70th Precinct, at Lawrence Ave, Brooklyn. The Auxiliary Police Department, of NYPD, employs volunteers mainly for such tasks as patrolling and traffic and crowd control. While they are not allowed to carry guns, the auxiliary cops are provided with batons and walkie-talkies. The department, which is the largest of its kind in the United States, currently has more than 4,500 officers. The complaint, issued against the defendant, states that he has already been suspended from his duties. Loretta E. Lynch, the present U.S. attorney in charge of Brooklyn, was reported saying:
The defendant allegedly used his position as an auxiliary officer to hack into restricted computers and networks in order to obtain the personal information of thousands of citizens in a scheme to enrich himself through fraud. The threat posed by those who abuse positions of trust to engage in insider attacks is serious, and we will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute such attacks.
According to the FBI statement, Katz installed several electronic gadgets in the department’s Traffic Safety Office, by means of which he could gain access to restricted FBI and NYPD files and databases. A video camera, attached to one of the hidden devices, provided live-imaging from inside the office. An additional device allowed Katz to remotely connect and operate the department’s computers. Between May and August, last year, the accused retrieved personal information of thousands of people involved in traffic accidents in the New York metropolitan area. Diego G. Rodriguez, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of FBI’s New York branch, said:
As alleged, Katz illegally accessed sensitive law enforcement computer systems for his own personal gain. This type of behavior betrays the public’s trust and cannot be tolerated. We entrust our public servants to safeguard confidential information and not prey upon victims, and we will continue to work with our partners to prosecute those who engage in this type of criminal activity.
Introducing himself as a lawyer with a bogus law firm, named “Katz & Katz”, the defendant contacted traffic victims with false promises of assisting them in their legal cases. Furthermore, he sent letters with such claims as “I can advise you with 100% confidence that I can resolve this claim in your favor” and “My fee is 14 percent only when you collect. And I know that you will collect.”. While the exact number of people conned by Katz is not known, authorities believe that a total of 65 individuals called the phone number provided by him. The official investigation, which commenced last summer, finally culminated with the defendant’s arrest on March 17.
If proven guilty, the accused will likely be sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment.