Investigator enters guilty plea

Wagner's agreement last Friday to plead guilty to federal charges in the HP spying case gives prosecutors the power to charge others in the case, a legal expert said.

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Wagner's agreement last Friday to plead guilty to federal charges in the HP spying case gives prosecutors the power to charge others in the case, a legal expert said.

Wagner, a 29-year-old US private investigator, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges in a federal court in California. He has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors investigating possible co-conspirators in exchange for possible leniency at sentencing.

"The first thing that a prosecuting attorney needs in a case like this is an inside witness," said Franklin Zimring, a criminal justice law professor in the Earl Warren Legal Institute at the US University of California. "Without that, it's a question of inferences from circumstantial evidence, and no fun at all for the prosecutor."

The charges stem from an investigation HP conducted in 2005 and 2006 to identify who on the HP board was leaking news of board deliberations to the media.

According to information presented in court Friday by Assistant US Attorney Mark Krotoski, HP hired a Boston private investigative firm, Security Outsourcing Solutions, which in turn hired Action Research Group. Action Research, in turn, hired Wagner, as an independent contractor.

The targets of the investigation included reporters who cover HP, company directors and some family members of both.

Wagner was given social security numbers and other personal information about the targets and used it to pose as those people to get calling records from phone companies, a practice called "pretexting," Krotoski said.

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