A special agent with the Department of Commerce has been charged with unlawfully accessing a database within the Department of Homeland Security to stalk his former girlfriend and her family.
Benjamin Robinson, 40, of Oakland, Calif., was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Jose Wednesday in connection with allegations that he accessed a government database known as the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) at least 163 times to track a woman's travel patterns. He is being charged with making a false statement to a government agency, and unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer.
Robinson faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $500,000.
"Those of us who are sworn to public service must continually strive to uphold the highest standards of professional conduct," said United States Attorney Scott N. Schools, in a statement. "Federal officers who violate the public trust by abusing their official positions to pursue a private vendetta must be held accountable for those actions."
An agent with the Department of Commerce since 1997, he worked in the Bureau of Industry and Security. According to an advisory from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Robinson began a romantic relationship with an unidentified woman in 2002. It lasted seven months and ended acrimoniously. The indictment alleged that during the course of their relationship and after the woman tried to end it, Robinson threatened "numerous" times that he would have her deported, or kill her and her family.
The indictment also charges that between May 2003 and March 2004, Robinson accessed the TECS database at least 163 times to track the woman's movements. Federal agents are authorized to use that database only in the performance of their official duties and not for personal reasons, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Law enforcement agents receive training in TECS security and privacy, and are issued unique passwords to access the database so their system use can be monitored.
Robinson is scheduled to make a court appearance on Oct. 11.