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FBI accused of planting hidden microphones around Bay Area to nab real estate investors

Trying to gather more evidence of bid rigging at foreclosure auctions

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation reportedly planted hidden microphones in and around the San Francisco Bay Area as part of an effort to catch several real estate investors suspected of bid rigging at local foreclosure auctions, according San Francisco’s CBS KPIX 5 and the Daily Caller.

Both reports state that between March 2010 and January 2011, the FBI allegedly placed hidden microphones inside light fixtures, at a bus stop and in other locations around an Oakland courthouse without a warrant to obtain more evidence of fixing foreclosure auctions.

From the Daily Caller report:

One specific place targeted by FBI agents was the Oakland courthouse. They embedded microphones in a bus stop outside the courthouse, hoping to hear incriminating evidence of real estate fraud. Agents also placed mics in the light fixtures just outside the building near the steps. Inside the courthouse, agents put a bugged backpack near one of the statues.

The FBI allegedly planted the hidden mics “under rocks” and “in trees,” according to Jeff Harp, who is a former FBI agent and a KPIX 5 security analyst.
The FBI agents allegedly hid the microphones in the hope that they’d overhear conversations about the alleged bid rigging scheme, and they apparently succeeded in that endeavor because the feds are trying to use surreptitiously obtained recordings as evidence to convict the investors.

But one of the accused investor’s lawyers is trying to get the recordings tossed out because they were obtained without a warrant.

From CBS KPIX 5:

The lawyer for one of the accused real estate investors who will ask the judge to throw out the recordings, told KPIX 5 News that, “Speaking in a public place does not mean that the individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy…private communication in a public place qualifies as a protected ‘oral communication’… and therefore may not be intercepted without judicial authorization.”

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