Woman Faces Criminal Wiretapping Charges For Deploying Spyware On Her Husband's Phone

from the more-to-this-story-than-the-headline dept

A woman deploys spyware on her soon-to-be ex-husband's phone, an act that is probably more common than anyone wants to admit, but one that rarely results in criminal charges. In this case, however, her husband happened to be employed by the Pacific Grove (CA) Police Department. If not for that simple fact, would there have been an investigation, much less charges brought? This story deals with multiple layers of official privilege -- the extra attention those labeled "law enforcement" receive as victims of criminal activity, as well as the extra access law enforcement officers have, and how easily it can be abused.

Kristin Nyunt was charged by information* today with two counts of illegal wiretapping and the possession of illegal interception devices, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag and FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson.

According to the information, from 2010 to 2012, Nyunt, 40, most recently of Monterey Calif., is alleged to have intercepted communications, including sensitive law enforcement communications, by means that included “spy software” that the defendant secretly installed on the mobile phone of a police officer. The information also alleges that during the same period she illegally possessed interception devices, namely spy software including Mobistealth, StealthGenie, and mSpy, knowing that the design of those products renders them primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of wire, oral, and electronic communications.
*An "information" is merely a sheet detailing allegations brought by prosecutors.

According to the San Francisco Gate, Nyunt tapped a specific target with this spyware (including the spyware law enforcement loves to hate: StealthGenie): her (now) ex-husband. This is the sort of thing one expects to be more frequent, considering the ease of use and the ubiquitousness of cell phones. Estranged wife spies on spouse. (Or vice versa.)

But this is just the latest wrinkle in an extremely twisted narrative that dates back to 2010. John Nyunt, the cop allegedly spied on by Kristin Nyunt, started up his own unlicensed private detective firm a few years ago while still a commander in the Pacific Grove Police Dept. He apparently used his department's database access to augment his side gig. That would be bad enough, but he also handed out his login and credentials to Kristin Nyunt, who illegally accessed a database meant for law enforcement use only.

John Nyunt also racked up additional charges by defrauding a customer of his private investigation firm.
A former Pacific Grove police commander has pleaded guilty to charges that he steered a possible crime victim to his private investigation firm, then merely pretended to look into her case after accepting $10,000, authorities said Wednesday.

John Nyunt, 51, admitted Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Jose that he hadn’t investigated the woman’s complaint that she was the victim of electronic surveillance and stalking after referring her to his private firm.
Nyunt also promised the woman a security force comprised of off-duty officer and told another officer to not follow up on her complaint but instead forward any information given directly to him. Despite having all the tools to do the job, Nyunt did nothing.

In addition to the state and federal charges arising from these two indictments, John Nyunt is also facing charges for the attempted murder… of Kristin Nyunt.

That Kristin wouldn't trust her husband isn't surprising. Untrustworthy people find it very hard to trust others. Kristin didn't use her illegal access to the law enforcement database to help the Nyunts' fledgling, completely illegal private investigation firm get off the ground. No, she used it to commit identity theft. When she wasn't pretending to be a cop so she could pretend to be someone else, she was stealing paintings and collectors coins from people's homes.

The mobile spyware is the tip of the iceberg. The irony that law enforcement would love to have this much access to everyone's cell phone isn't exactly lost in this situation. But it is very muted. The bigger story here is that the spyware charges are the final detail of a long, sordid narrative where everything trust-related that could be abused WAS abused. A cop uses his extra access privileges to run a home business. He shares the wealth and his wife steals peoples' identities and physical belongings. Along the way, the cop/private dick screws customers and tries to kill his wife. In the end, they'll both be serving time, but it took more than two straight years of access without accountability before investigators brought it to a halt. And it took Nyunt's being a cop to even get investigators to look twice at his wife's use of mobile spyware.

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Filed Under: john nyunt, kristin nyunt, police, spying, spyware


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  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 6:35am

    This would be perfect...

    .. if the program she used was "Computer Cop"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Geno0wl (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 6:37am

    shocking

    The only thing shocking about this story is that this cop lost his job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 6:37am

    Only the police are moral enough to be trusted with automatic weapons, surveillance equipment, Stingrays, and the right to shoot your dog.

    Oh, and apparently their wives. But not ex-wives.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 6:54am

    However, as California is a community property state, wouldn't the phone have been considered hers to at the time?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    seedeevee (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 8:37am

    "United States Attorney Melinda Haag"

    She has a big pile of DOJ Political bullshit attached to her resume. She is the biggest drug warrior in N.CA. and, needless to say, should have been removed from her job in 2009.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 9:18am

    OK, let me see if I've got this right.

    Timeline:
    2007-John Nyunt becomes PD commander.
    2009-Kristin Nyunt starts using the police database to steal identities and paintings and whatnot.
    2010-John Nyunt starts unlicenced PI business, Kristin Nyunt starts using spyware on his phone.
    2012-John Nyunt stops unlicenced PI business, Kristin Nyunt stops using spyware on his phone.
    2013 (January)-Kristin Nyunt is arrested for fraud and theft, John Nyunt is placed on paid administrative leave.
    2013 (November)-John Nyunt retires.
    2014 (March)-John Nyunt is arrested "for allegedly threatening to murder his ex-wife". (Not attempted murder?)
    2014 (April)-John Nyunt pleads guilty and is sentenced to 3 years in prison.
    2014 (July)-Kristin Nyunt pleads guilty and is sentenced to 8 years, 4 months in prison.
    2014 (October)-Kristin Nyunt is charged with illegally wiretapping John Nyunt's phone.

    Trivia:
    -John Nyunt was a police officer for 23 years.
    -He embezzled police property, including cellphones, a camera, and an assault rifle.
    -He knew his wife was stealing stuff and ordered his subordinates to close investigations where she was the prime suspect.
    -One of Kristin Nyunt's identity theft victims was her own son.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 10:15am

      Re: OK, let me see if I've got this right.

      Slaps wrist send him on his way , buries her, I think he made his kill shot after all, just used the law as his contract killer instead.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 1:03pm

    We could make a "based on a true story" TV movie from this.

    More Lifeline than Spike.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      GaryB, 27 Oct 2014 @ 11:39am

      Re: We could make a "based on a true story" TV movie from this.

      It's almost a perfect replay of John Sandfords "Luellen and Kidd" novels.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 1:44pm

    StealthGenie would be so trivially easy to defeat. Just to a Factory Data Reset on your phone and the spyware is GONE. This is urrently no possible way to disable factory data reset on Android phones

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rob McMillin (profile), 23 Oct 2014 @ 4:13pm

    SF Chronicle

    Has the Chronicle completely spun off the SFGate.com web arm?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Oct 2014 @ 5:30pm

    Does this mean other people will be able to use this case as an example that charges should be brought?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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