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FBI Charges HOPE Speaker with Witness Tampering, Obstructing Justice

Security Fix obtained a copy of the complaint against "Steven Rambam" the private investigator arrested Saturday at the Hope Number Six hacker conference in New York City. The government document says Rambam is an alias, and that his real name is Steven Rombom, so that is how he'll be referred to here henceforth.

The complaint, available here as a PDF, charges Rombom with obstruction of justice and with witness tampering, alleging that in April 2006 Rombom impersonated a federal investigator at the request of a client who had hired him to locate a government informant who was central to the client's money-laundering indictment in 2003.

Rombom is a licensed private investigator and founder of Pallorium Inc., which bills itself as the largest privately held online private investigation service in the United States. The government charges that Rombom unlawfully interfered with an ongoing case prosecutors filed against Albert Santoro, a former Brooklyn assistant district attorney who was indicted in Jan. 2003 with one count of money-laundering (prosecutors have accused Santoro of agreeing to launder $100,000 in cash for drug dealers and claiming he knew how to stymie money-laundering investigations); The complaint says Santoro hired Rombom to locate one of the government's confidential informants, whom Santoro has publicly accused of entrapment.

The government claims that in April Rombom located and visited the California home of the informant's in-laws, and introduced himself as an FBI agent, flashing what the informant's mother-in-law described as "a laminated card with an official government gold seal or badge."

The complaint says "ROMBOM told [the mother-in-law] that he was investigating the [informant], and that her son-in-law was a very bad and dangerous person, and that there were many things about the [informant] that the in-laws probably didn't know," such as that the informant had been in jail many times. Rombom also told the mother-in-law that her daughter was in danger because of the informant and that he was afraid for the safety of their daughter, the government says.

Rombom is slated to appear before a judge in the District Court for the Southern District of New York sometime today to be arraigned on the charges. The government's complaint does not allege any further wrongdoing by Santoro, but requests that Rombom "be arrested and imprisoned, or bailed, as the case may be."

Udpate: July 25, 12:12 a.m.: Rombom appeared in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York yesterday and was released on his own recognizance. He is scheduled to appear again on Aug. 7. The Washington Post print edition today carries a brief story that draws from this update and reporting from the last two blog posts.

Update: The government dropped the charges against Rambam shortly after filing them.

By Brian Krebs  |  July 24, 2006; 1:07 PM ET
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