The FBI is being accused of colluding with a Best Buy “Geek Squad” employee and paying him $500 to spy through files on a prominent doctor’s computer.
After the 64-year-old Orange County doctor could not get his computer to turn on, Dr. Mark A. Rettenmaier took it to a Best Buy location in Mission Viejo, California. From there, it was shipped to a repair center in Louisville, Kentucky where John “Trey” Westphal attempted to fix it. While working on the desktop, Westphal found an image of “a fully nude, white prepubescent female on her hands and knees on a bed, with a brown choker-type collar around her neck” which implored him to turn it over as child pornography. FBI agent Tracey Riley seized the hard drive and Rettenmaier is now facing child-pornography charges.
Court documents reveal that Westphal, along with his boss Justin Meade and coworker Randall Ratliff, are being accused of being FBI informants.
James D. Riddet, Rettenmaier’s defense attorney, says that agents conducted two additional searches without obtaining warrants, lied to obtain a warrant, and tried to cover up their missteps by hiding records. Riddet is also claiming that the picture of the young girl was found in the trash folder on the computer and could have easily been put there by malware.
A court in a 2011 case of U.S.A. v. Andrew Flyer determined that pictures found on unallocated space did not provide enough information to declare the person knew the picture existed in their files.
Riddet told The OC Weekly that “the FBI appears to be able to access data at [Best Buy’s main repair facility] whenever they want” and that claimed that the “FBI and Best Buy made sure that during the period from 2007 to the present, there was always at least one supervisor who was an active informant.”
Best Buy released a statement saying that it is their policy to turn any evidence of child-pornography to authorities if found on a customer’s computer.
“If we discover child pornography in the normal course of servicing a computer, phone or tablet, we have an obligation to contact law enforcement. We believe this is the right thing to do, and we inform our customers before beginning any work that this is our policy,” Jeff Haydock, V.P. of communications said.