Categorized | General News

Two Tazewell County EMS workers charged

Posted on 30 November 2013 by wyoskibum

Wytheville, VA – Two local rescue squad members were indicted in Tazewell County  recently for their unauthorized incursion into the local law enforcement radio system. Carlos Darnell Baker  of Berwind, WV. and Nathaniel Layne Dunford of Cedar Bluff, Va. were both charged with Use of Computer to Convert Property/Program of Another (Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office) and Maliciously make an Unauthorized Copy of Property/Program of Another, they are Class 5 and Class 6 felonies respectively. These charges stem from an investigation into the unauthorized use and copying of the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office channels on their rescue squad radios. It has since been learned through the investigation they also programmed Tazewell Police Department, Russell County Fire and EMS, as well as Virginia State Police channels into their radios. Charges from Russell County and  the Virginia State Police are pending.

Both Dunford and Baker were afforded the opportunity to pay for the reprogramming of all of the Law Enforcement radios in the county via a certified letter and avoid prosecution. Our office was advised via their attorney the cost ($4,700) was too much and they weren’t going to be able to pay that amount prior to November 1st. It was offered that they could make payments on this amount, but no contact was made regarding this matter after the final phone conversation with their attorney. Both were indicted on November 12th with the above mentioned charges.

It is important to note that while the frequencies to the Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies are available online from the FCC, the encryption keys used to secure those radio transmissions are proprietary and you can only have that information if you have the expressed written permission of the Sheriff of Tazewell County. The Sheriff’s Office went to encrypted radio frequencies in September of 2011 in an attempt to keep criminals from listening in on scanner. This was becoming a very serious officer safety problem as many criminals would invest $50-$80 into a scanner and could keep tabs on local law enforcement.

It should also be noted these two individuals admitted to their part in these crimes, the Tazewell County Sheriff, Brian Hieatt stated, “We felt compelled to offer these two men the opportunity to pay for the reprogramming of these radios prior to charging them. The problem is the cost, reprogramming is high because, every law enforcement radio in the county will have to be handled in order to reprogram them. I don’t feel the citizen of this county should be responsible for paying to reprogram the encryptions, but that the men charged should be responsible for the cost. The radio company has also had to reprogram each repeater site as well as notifying all of the surrounding agencies of our changes. We take the theft of our encryption keys very serious and will follow through with charges if they are tampered with again in the future.” Possible charges could be seen in the future as the investigation continues into other agencies whose programming was copied and distributed.

Dunford was served on November 17th and released on an unsecured bond, Baker was served on November 18th and released on a $1,000 secured bond after being booked into the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority, Tazewell.

Baker is scheduled to be in circuit court Feb. 3 of 2014 and Dunford is on the docket for Jan. 16. Baker was employed by Tazewell County Fire and Rescue on an as needed basis and has since been suspend from those duties.

SOURCE

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