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HOPE Speaker Arrested by the Feds

Security Fix just learned that Steven Rambam, the owner and CEO of Pallorium Inc., a company that bills itself as the largest privately held online investigative service in the United States, was arrested this afternoon by FBI agents just moments before he was to lead a panel discussion on privacy here at the HOPE hacker conference in New York City.

Details are sketchy at the moment, but Rambam's fellow panelists said four men clad in dark blue FBI jackets quietly entered the auditorium, asked Rambam if he had any weapons on him, and then escorted him out the door along with his laptop and other equipment that contained the PowerPoint slides that were to make up the bulk of his scheduled two-hour presentation.

"If you know Steve then you know he's very flamoyant, and at first I thought it was just PR, you know?" said Kelly Riddle, a private investigator from San Antonio who was to speak alongside Rambam. "So, they asked him to step out in the hallway, placed the handcuffs on him and started to lead him off."

Rambam was going to discuss how he dug up -- in just 4.5 hours of searching private and public databases -- more than 500 pages worth of data on HOPE attendee Rick Dakan, who agreed to be the guinea pig for the project.

"All I had given him was my e-mail and name. He knew everywhere I'd lived, every car I had driven, and even someone else in Alabama who was using my Social Security number since 1983," said Dakan, who said he is attending this conference for a book he is working on about hacker conferences. "He found all my friends, pictures of friends, knew about my brother's criminal history."

Conference founder Emmanuel Goldstein said organizers were trying to figure out where the FBI had taken Rambam, and were contacting his parents and his lawyer. "We're going to find out where Steve is and we'll keep you updated," Goldstein said.

Security Fix hasn't had time to confirm the arrest. I'll try to keep you updated.

Update, 10:57 p.m. ET: I got in contact with a spokesperson for the FBI's New York field office, who confirmed that the FBI had executed one arrest warrant without incident at around 4 p.m. ET today at the Hotel Pennsylvania where HOPE Six is behind held. The FBI agent said the agency would not release any more information about the arrest, and that the information was sealed until Monday when Rambam is expected to make an initial appearance in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. I've got a call in to his attorney and will update this post if I hear anything new. The scuttlebutt here at the conference is that Rambam may have located someone who was in the FBI's witness protection program, but I have not been able to verify that rumor at all.

Update, July 24, 1:33 p.m. ET: A copy of the complaint against Rambam (named as "Rombom" in the document) says he is being charged with witness tampering and obstruction of justice in an ongoing government case against a former Brooklyn assistant district attorney who was indicted for money-laundering. The complaint against Rombom and more information about the charges are available at the latest Security Fix post.

By Brian Krebs  |  July 22, 2006; 6:11 PM ET
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