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Mafia boss jailed in FBI keyboard bugging case

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A New Jersey federal court has sentenced Nicodemo Scarfo to 33 months in prison at the end of a case that tested the legality of law enforcement surveillance techniques.

Government agents placed a keystroke-logging device on Scarfo's computer and a key point in the case was reached when US District Court Judge Joel Pisano ruled in December that evidence from the device was admissible. Two months later Scarfo, the son of the jailed former boss of the Philadelphia mob, changed his plea and admitted his role in an illegal gambling operation.

FBI investigators entered Scarfo's office in January 1999, but were initially foiled by his use of PGP to protect documents they believed would provide evidence of his crimes. They returned after obtaining a search warrant that allowed them to place a keyboard-logging device on his PC, enabling them to obtain his password.

Scarfo used to work for a Florida software firm and is considered something of a geek in Wise Guy circles.

Defence lawyers unsuccessfully argued that the authorities needed to obtain a wiretap warrant - which is more difficult to obtain than a search warrant - prior to planting the device. ®

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