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Deputy U.S. Marshall Tracks Girlfriends With Sensitive Law Enforcement Tool

by Kevin Bliss

Ex-Deputy U.S. Marshall Adrian O. Pena was charged with 11 counts of unauthorized use of law enforcement services for personal gain. The charges involve nine people known to Pena through personal relationships and their spouses between September 2016 and October 2017.

Pena was stationed at the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force in Uvalde County, Texas, when he came under investigation for illicitly using Securus’ locating software to keep personal tabs on lovers and their spouses beginning September 2016. The incident is not the first abuse of this nature by law enforcement officers and others.

Securus purchases phone geospatial information from such locating data brokers as 3Cinteractive and LocationSmart. These companies purchase the information directly from AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and other phone companies. Location information is then offered to law enforcement agencies with proper authorization.

Authorization is submitted by uploading some documentation providing clearance, like a warrant. Yet, Pena was able to obtain information with nothing more than an award certificate, letterhead template, and even blank .docx documents. This inadequate manner of security has placed Securus under investigation on other occasions as well.

In 2018, Senator Ron Wyden and the New York Times called for an investigation after the Times discovered a former sheriff was found to have leveraged the company for his own use, including monitoring the movements of a judge. Wyden stated then that security measures taken by Securus were too lax. “When Securus gave law enforcement essentially unrestricted access to track any phone in the country, it was inevitable the system would be abused,” Wyden said. “Requiring a pinky promise of a court order was woefully insufficient, as this case demonstrates.”

Pena was questioned by the Office of the Investigator General (“OIG”). He refuted using Securus’ location services inappropriately. He denied accusations of accessing GPS information of previous and current girlfriends and their spouses. Statements by the OIG at the end of the indictment transcripts read: “...PENA had used the Securus LBS platform for personal reasons on numerous occasions, including to obtain cellular telephone location data relating to individuals with whom PENA was or had been in personal relationships and their spouses.”

A Securus representative stated the company has since taken the service completely off of the market. “All of this preceded our aggressive, multi-year transformation, and we wouldn’t and won’t provide the service ever again, period,” the representative said. 


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