Small beans in part of a larger $600,000 settlement package

Joseph and Mathew Depante will pay the Federal Trade Commission $3,000 in “equitable remedies” for their role as private investigators that used illegal pretexting tactics in the infamous 2005 HP spying case, allowing the duo to admit no wrongdoing.

The $3,000 was originally set at $67,000, although the FTC suspended the amount after it found the Depantes unable to pay due to the fact that their company, Action Research Group, had gone out of business. The Depante’s subcontractors, who include Cassandra Selvage of Eye in the Sky Investigators and independent investigator Bryan Wagner, were forced to pay the remaining portion of the settlement’s $600,000 total.

CNET reports that Hewlett-Packard hired Action Research Group to isolate the source of boardroom leaks to news journalists, and notes that three of the stalked journalists include CNET reporters and their families. An invasion of privacy case between the affected CNET reporters and HP is currently working its way through a California Superior Court.

In a California court last March, Matthew Depante – as well as private detective Ronald Delia and former HP attorney Kevin Hunsaker – pleaded no contest to one count of fraudulent wire communications. The judge sentenced the trio to 96 hours of community service, and will dismiss its case against them pending the punishment’s completion.

Speaking in a press release, the FTC said it reached a settlement with Depantes that barred them from “obtaining, marketing or selling customer phone records or consumers’ personal information.” The $67,000 fine was suspended due to their “inability to pay,” said the FTC, while fellow defendants Eye in the Sky, Selvage, and Wagner were found subject to default judgments entered by the court.

The settlement represents one of the final chapters in the HP spying scandal that rocked the country in 2005 and 2006, which was settled between HP and the SEC in May 2007.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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