Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Huntington Beach Man Indicted for Use of ‘Key Katcher’
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A Huntington Beach resident yesterday became the first person in the nation to be indicted by a federal grand jury for illegally installing a keystroke logging device on a computer, prosecutors said.
Larry Lee Ropp, 46, was indicted in Los Angeles on a single count of endeavoring to intercept electronic communications, a violation of the federal wiretap statute, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Spertus of the Central District of California told the MetNews.
The crime is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison.
Ropp, whom Spertus said was employed by Bristol West Insurance Group/Coast National Insurance Company in Anaheim until he was terminated in September 2003, is scheduled to be arraigned on the indictment on April 5.
Ropp is accused of installing a device, sold under the name Key Katcher, on a Bristol West computer in order to gain access to the work of a secretary to a company executive.
Ads explain that when the device is attached to a computer keyboard cable, it records all keys pressed on the keyboard. Suggested uses include monitoring children’s computer usage, early detection of insider fraud and embezzlement, or spying on one’s spouse to determine if he or she is engaged in a “steamy online affair.”
The Key Katcher is available on a number of Web sites and can be purchased for under $100. It has many legitimate uses but “can be so easily used for an improper purpose,” Spertus said.
Ropp’s intent in installing the device, the prosecutor explained, was to help the plaintiffs in a class action suit charging Bristol West with failing to pay claims. Spertus said he does not know whether Ropp was being paid or had some other reason for wanting to advance litigation against his employer.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office does not presently expect to charge anyone else in the case, Spertus added.
Bristol West, he explained, learned of the device after Ropp was terminated and called another Bristol West employee asking that she remove the device.
During interviews with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he said, Ropp admitted using the Key Katcher, but claimed that he was a whistleblower working at the behest of the California Department of Insurance, a claim denied by representatives of the Department of Insurance.
Ropp was arrested Feb. 25 and is currently free on bond.
His attorney, Deputy Federal Public Defender Firdaus Dordi, declined comment on the charges.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company