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.*An "information" is merely a sheet detailing allegations brought by prosecutors.
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.
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.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.
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.
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.