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HP-paid PI guilty in spying scandal

The first domino in the chain of alleged lawbreakers on HP's pretexting scandal pleaded guilty late last week. But 29-year-old Bryan Wagner is expected to deliver evidence to federal prosecutors that could lead to the convictions of other, higher-ranking investigators and HP officials. Former HP chairman Patricia Dunn and former HP ethics chief Kevin Hunsaker are also charged in the scandal.

Wagner, whose lawyer was quoted in an Associated Press story as saying his client "felt used" in the spying scandal, will be testifying for the prosecution in the upcoming trial, according to his lawyer Stephen Narati.

The five defendants in the case, including Dunn and Hunsaker, next appear in court on Jan. 17.

Wagner, described as a lowest-level investigator, broke privacy laws while gathering social security numbers of reporters in the 2005-2006 HP boardroom probe. His sentencing, scheduled for June, did not include a plea agreement — a sign that this small pawn had secured his own freedom in exchange for information about the others charged in the scandal.

The AP reported that Wagner was an independent contractor in the chain of investigators helping HP seal up boardroom leaks to the press. The operation, which resulted in the resignations of directors Tom Perkins and George Keyworth, has already cost HP more than $14 million in fines.

U.S. Attorney Mark Krotoski said Wagner was hired by Matthew DePante of Florida-based Action Research Group to unearth the telephone records and distribute them to other unnamed coconspirators. DePante paid Wagner an unspecified amount and provided him with the Social Security numbers, Krotoski said.

Wagner, Depante and three others were charged in October in California court with four felony counts each of conspiracy, fraud and identity theft for their alleged roles in the HP spying scandal.

HP's Hunsaker directed the probe. HP allegedly paid Ronald DeLia, a longtime HP security contractor who runs a Boston-area detective firm called Security Outsourcing Solutions, to tap phone records. DeLia  allegedly contracted the work out to DePante’s firm.