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Investigators in HP Scandal Plead Not Guilty

Three private investigators in Hewlett-Packard Co.'s boardroom spying probe pleaded not guilty to identity theft and other felony charges.

Three private investigators who allegedly obtained confidential telephone records as part of Hewlett-Packard Co.'s boardroom spying probe pleaded not guilty Tuesday to identity theft and other felony charges.

Ronald DeLia of Massachusetts-based Security Outsourcing Solutions Inc., Matthew DePante of Florida-based Action Research Group Inc., and Bryan Wagner of Colorado were arraigned in Santa Clara County Superior Court. Each was later booked and released on personal recognizance.

DeLia, DePante and Wagner are among five people criminally charged last week for their roles in the spying scandal at the computer and printer giant. Former HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn surrendered and appeared in court late last week. The company's ousted ethics chief Kevin Hunsaker turned himself in and was released.

The three investigators are accused of impersonating HP board members, employees and journalists to trick telephone companies into divulging their private phone logs.

All five are charged with using false or fraudulent pretenses to obtain confidential information from a public utility; unauthorized access to computer data; identity theft; and conspiracy to commit each of those crimes. Each charge carries a fine of up to $10,000 and three years in prison.

They are all scheduled to return to court Nov. 17.

Wagner's defense lawyer, Stephen Naratil, said outside court that his client worked for many companies and didn't know what the telephone records were being used for.

He declined to comment on prosecutors' claims that Wagner acknowledged destroying the computer linking him to the HP probe "because it had incriminating evidence on it."

"He's a hard worker," Naratil said. "He didn't know anything about HP. He didn't know anyone at HP. He was just doing his job."

DePante's defense lawyer, Richard Preira, reiterated his client's innocence but declined to comment further.

DeLia's defense lawyer declined to comment.

State Attorney General Bill Lockyer has said the investigation is ongoing and could lead to more charges.

DeLia, a longtime HP contractor on security investigations, was allegedly the middleman between HP and the other two investigators.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the charges, Dunn worked with DeLia on HP's ultimately unsuccessful media-leak investigation in 2005.

HP then contracted with him again this year after a story appeared on CNET's News.com in January with an anonymous source dishing about a private board retreat.

DeLia contracted with Action Research Group, where DePante is a manager, to obtain the private phone logs, who in turn hired Wagner as a subcontractor, according to the criminal complaint.

Prosecutors say a series of e-mails shows that DeLia regularly updated Dunn, Hunsaker and other members of HP's security team on the investigation, which became public last month and has prompted the resignation of three board members and three top HP employees.

According to the criminal complaint, private investigators working for HP compromised the personal data of more than 24 people. By March, the detectives had compiled records of 1,750 phone calls made on 157 cellular phones and 413 landlines.

The probe eventually identified longtime board member and former presidential adviser George Keyworth II as the anonymous source in the News.com story. Keyworth was outed in a board meeting, prompting the resignation of another director, venture capitalist Tom Perkins. Keyworth himself later resigned.

Dunn initially said she would cede the chairmanship to HP Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd in January while remaining on the board, but she eventually stepped down entirely.

Hunsaker refused to resign from HP and was fired, according to his defense lawyer, Michael Pancer, who said Tuesday that his client would also be arraigned on Nov. 17.

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