Crime & Courts
Tampa-based IT director used webcams to spy on female employees
TAMPA - When women who worked for a national advertising firm noticed their computer web cameras appeared to turn on at unusual times, they notified their bosses. It turns out the company's information technology director was using a software program to leer at the women in Atlanta from Tampa, where he worked. On Thursday, the former IT director, Christopher Scott Channer, 34, pleaded guilty in Tampa to a federal charge of intercepting communications. Channer faces up to five years in prison, but he is likely to receive less under the terms of a plea agreement. Channer told the FBI in February that he had activated a program called "Theft Tracker" on the computers of female employees he found attractive. The program enables users to remotely obtain screen images of computers and activate web cameras in the event a computer is stolen.Channer told FBI agents he "saw pictures that he probably should not have" but did not intend to humiliate or blackmail anyone, according to his plea agreement. He confessed to activating the web cameras dozens of times and viewing at least one image of a female employee whose breast was exposed. The advertising company, 22squared, had no comment on Channer's plea. According to Channer's plea agreement, the FBI began investigating two years ago following an internal investigation by the Atlanta-based advertising firm. The firm had hired Deloitte, a professional service firm, to do a full forensic scan of the computers belonging to members of the firm's IT department, the only people who could have remotely activated other employees' webcams. Deloitte determined the webcams had been activated by a program called LanRev, which has Theft Tracker as a component. Channer's responsibilities included activating LanRev. Channer was fired from the firm Sept. 10, 2010, for inappropriate use of company resources, and his computer was confiscated. A database examination determined that Channer had captured about 1,200 images via webcam and more than 1,400 desktop screen shots. Among the screen shots was an email sent by one employee to another — the basis for the charge of intercepting communications. Defense lawyer Mark Rankin said Channer is "someone with an exemplary employment history and a young family and, by all accounts, a good guy who made a mistake, an isolated incident, and he's very remorseful. "His hope is he can receive a sentence of probation and restitution and stay home with his family."
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