Technology has become a vital tool for detectives.
The Gainesville Sun
Gainesville Police Detective Jorge Campos is a cyber sleuth.
While most criminal investigators rely on the old stand-bys of
fingerprints and paper trails for clues to solve murders, thefts and
other crimes, Campos is among an elite group using technology -
computers, palm pilots and cell phones - to crack cases.
Within the police department's computer crimes unit, it's not just
Campos' job to bust those using computers to scam unsuspecting
Internet users out of money but also to assist on cases of all kinds
in which a cyber trail exists - and that's happening more and more
Two weeks ago, GPD arrested a University of Florida graduate
student on theft and cyber-stalking charges after he was traced to
his home through the invisible network of the computer world.
"We have to be able to recover that kind of evidence for our
cases, otherwise it's going to turn out to be a case based on 'he
said,' 'she said,' " Campos said.
The University of Florida Police Department and Alachua County
Sheriff's Office have similar computer units.
UPD police helped track down Praveen Vedam, who's a suspect in the
stabbing death of UF graduate student Sudheer Reddy Satti. Vedam
remains behind bars at the Alachua County jail on a theft charge.
Vedam has not been charged with murder in the case, although his
attorney has said it is obvious given the high bond amount that he is
considered a suspect.
Without the use of computer tracking, it's likely these and other
cases would become part of the Cold Case Files in every law
enforcement agency, GPD Sgt. Keith Kameg said.
"Many times, these are people with no criminal records," Kameg
said. "The cases do get solved because of the usage of the computers."
GPD started its computer crimes unit about three years ago. Three
officers work full time in the unit.
"The biggest thing that has driven the electronic recovery is
pornography," Campos said.
Before GPD's program launched, Campos said GPD got a referral from
an agency outside of Florida to investigate some computers for child
Lack of the equipment needed to retrieve information from the
computers and the knowledge required to use it, Campos said GPD
outsourced the task to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
"But the turnaround time was outrageous," Campos said.
GPD now has a full-time Internet Crimes Against Children Task
Force covering Florida north of the Interstate 4 corridor, from
Orlando to Jacksonville to Pensacola.
It stems from an 18-month, $278,000 federal grant Gainesville
police received from the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
No figures seem to exist showing how many more crimes are solved
with the use of technology, but there's a plethora of anecdotal
evidence locally to support the claim.
UPD broke up a gambling ring in November 2000 when the agency
tracked e-mails implicating All-American basketball star Teddy Dupay
and his roommate in a scheme, UPD Lt. Joe Sharkey said.
Dupay received money in exchange for insider information on
whether the Florida basketball team could cover the point-spread. His
roommate, Kresten Lagerman, was charged with tampering with a
witness, victim or informant and unlawful betting on a trial or
contest. Dupay was ousted from the basketball program.
"The investigation started with allegations against a student
athlete," Sharkey said. "But it's rare that information garnered from
a computer will be your sole piece of evidence that gains conviction."
Sharkey and university information technicians declined to discuss
just how they are able to follow e-trails because of the continuing
investigation into the Satti murder.
But Frank Latini, technical services manager for Gainesville
Regional Utilities, which operates its own Internet provider, GRUCOM,
said the process is as simple as the tip of a finger.
Like a person's fingerprints, every computer, when it's made,
possesses an identity code. Wherever a computer-user goes, a mark is
left behind like a map.
"It's really easy," Latini said.
With the right software, computer crime detectives can recreate
what a computer user has done - in other words what Web sites they've
visited - on the computer.
In the Satti case, UPD officers linked Vedam to the Satti case when
someone living at Vedam's home address accessed Satti's private
e-mail account - after he was discovered dead. The private e-mail was
accessed again by someone working at Nanoptics, the place where Vedam
was employed, according to UPD police reports. A laptop computer case
owned by Satti was later discovered in an air duct at Nanoptics. The
laptop is still missing.
Yet, there are times when extremely clever, cyber-savvy criminals
elude the authorities.
Several years ago, prosecutors in the State's Attorney Office
learned that the videotape of several members of UF's Delta Chi
fraternity having sex with a stripper was for sale on the Internet,
said Spencer Mann with the State's Attorney Office.
But when Mann tried to determine the original location of the
message to shut down the offer, he was stumped.
"It was routed through five different states, across Canada and
around the world," Mann said.
As computers become as common as televisions in homes, officials
tracking computer crimes expect their technical units to grow.
The Internet Fraud Complaint Center reports that complaints, such
as auction fraud, credit/debit card fraud, computer intrusions,
unsolicited e-mail and child pornography, rose three-fold between
2001 and 2002 indicating a broader use of computers and computer
"People feel when they are in a room by themselves and in a house
or apartment that they aren't committing any crimes," Kameg said.
"Since there are no witness, how could they ever get caught?"