Feds: TV news anchor hacked, then leaked colleague's e-mail

Philadelphia news man charged with sending co-anchor's private info to local newspaper

A Philadelphia TV news anchor was charged on Monday with breaking into his co-anchor's e-mail accounts more than 500 times and feeding information he found there to a local newspaper.

Lawrence Mendte was charged with one felony count of intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization and obtaining information in furtherance of a tortious act. Mendt, a news anchor at CBS affiliate KYW-TV, is accused of secretly accessing one work and two personal e-mail accounts for co-anchor Alycia Lane between March 2006 and May 2008.

Mendte allegedly used his work computer, along with a home computer and a system at his vacation home, to break into the accounts.

Between just Jan. 1 and May 26 of this year, Mendte logged into Lane's personal accounts approximately 537 times, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Mendte, who faces five years in prison, was released from his contract in June following an independent investigation by CBS, according to a story on the KYW Web site.

Lane was let go from the news station this past January, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

"People expect that e-mail in a password-protected, personal e-mail account is private," said acting U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid. "If you think of it in the context of another era, it's no different than someone stealing your locked briefcase containing confidential information from your lawyer, prying it open and helping themselves to the contents. The mere accessing and reading of privileged information is criminal. This case, however, went well beyond just reading someone's e-mail."

The government's Information document contends that Mendte accessed private communications between Lane and others, including friends, her attorney and even some between Lane and a friend's wife. Some of the information that was accessed pertained to civil and criminal litigation that Lane was involved in.

On several occasions, Mendte allegedly shared private and legal information obtained from the stolen e-mail documents with a reporter from the Philadelphia Daily News.

The FBI's Cyber Squad investigated the case, which is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael L. Levy.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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