The Real CSI: Cyber
Apr 01, 2015 09:38AM ● Published by Jason Huddle
David Matthew Hallman
With the evolution of cyber-crime in conjunction with that of the Internet, most U.S. police departments have cyber-crime teams that pursue cases coming to light. The Concord Police Department is no different.Led by Detective Avery Turner and Sergeant Brian Schiele, this team deals daily with those who choose to hide behind a computer to bully, steal or worse.
David Matthew Hallman was a Concord resident until 2013. Now he’s living in a federal prison where he is serving a 120-year sentence for four counts of production of child
“It was a case that began as an indecent liberties (with a minor) charge and quickly spiraled into a child pornography case,” Major Glenn Hatley explains. He also works with the Cyber-crimes unit. Once the team – led at that time by Sergeant Brian Kelly, the Concord Police Department’s first computer forensic investigator – was able to obtain the computer equipment Hallman had attempted to dispose of, they found a cache of child pornography, some of which included Hallman himself committing the crimes.
“It was a case where we had him collecting the material, producing the material and distributing it as well,” Turner adds.
Initially, Hallman attempted to run, but he was quickly apprehended thanks to, ironically, the help of the Internet. Faced with the overwhelming evidence against him, he pled guilty and was sentenced to 1,440 months in prison. His co-defendant, Mary Freda Williams, was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Although this was an extreme case, cyber-crimes, which are technically anytime the Internet is used to commit crimes, are becoming more and more popular. While many of us have received the e-mail from an African ambassador wanting to wire money to us, or the one where we've won a lottery and need to pay $5,000 in order to receive millions, most of those cases involve a perpetrator that isn't located in the U.S., and is, thus, outside the jurisdiction of local police. They can be pursued on a federal level, but often aren't, due to a lack in manpower.
What Turner describes as a huge local problem is cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying, especially among school-aged children. “They use apps like Kik and Skype to bully and stalk their victims,” he says. “These things don’t require data usage, only a Wi-fi connection, which you can get almost anywhere.”
Yes, these criminals can literally commit the crime from wherever they are, but the Internet leaves a digital fingerprint that includes the IP address logged on from, the sites visited and e-mail accounts used. Therefore, unless the perpetrators have the money to purchase the technology to combat this, chances are they will be caught.
Sadly, many of these perpetrators are still children themselves. “There is a big problem with kids exchanging exploitative pictures with each other through the Internet,” Turner explains.
It is an epidemic that many police departments are dealing with all over the country. Technically, these cases are child pornography cases that can carry heavy sentences, as with the Hallman case. Under the law these children should spend time in prison, but how do you stop the onslaught now that it’s rampant? That’s when the mission becomes concentrating on helping the victims.
With tax season upon us, Turner wants to bring to light a popular scam that seemingly involves the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Someone claiming to be an employee of the IRS calls an unsuspecting victim and tells them they owe the IRS money. They’re instructed to purchase “green dot” money cards to send as payment. While the IRS would never phone an individual or use green dot cards as an acceptable form of payment, there are those who still fall victim.
At the end of the day, Turner says the best protection from any cyber-crime is to stop the criminals before they have a chance to start. “Check your privacy settings. Know who’s on your friends list,” he says. “Don’t respond to people you don’t know. Don’t visit websites you don’t completely trust.”
Capt. Robert Ledwell, who also assists Concord’s team, says, “In the case of scams, always remember, ‘If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.’ ”