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Basketball megastar accused of phone hacking

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Basketball star Shaquille O'Neal has been accused of hacking into the phone of a former employee and mistress as well as destroying evidence by throwing a laptop into a lake next to his home, accusations the NBA star denies.

Shawn Darling alleges that the NBA star hacked into the voicemail boxes of Darling and Vanessa Lopez, the NBA star's alleged former lover. Darling further alleges that O'Neal conspired to frame him by planting child pornography on his computer.

Lawyers for O'Neal have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the charges are fabricated and only arose after the NBA refused to pay $12m for the return of copies of files taken by Darling from O'Neal.

Darling - who has a criminal record and did time in 2002 for misusing social security numbers, according to CNN reports - worked for O'Neal for two years from 2007 as a personal IT consultant.

During this time O'Neal allegedly had a string of extra-marital affairs including a relationship with hip-hop singer Alexis Miller. Darling helped compile a list of phone messages sent to Miller as well as electronically wiping and later dumping in a lake a laptop used by O'Neal at the time.

The alleged affair with Lopez became known to Darling after O'Neal divorced his wife in October 2009. Darling claims he sided against O'Neal after he discovered he was breaking into Lopez's voicemail, informing the hip-hop singer of this severe privacy intrusion.

O'Neal allegedly found out Darling had switched sides through Lopez before allegedly attempting to hack into Darling's mobile phone and conspiring with private detectives to plant child porn on his erstwhile employee's PC.

Darling is suing for emotional distress, racketeering and invasion of privacy in a lawsuit, filed in August, which can be found via RadarOnline here. No criminal charges have been filed in the case, news of which only broke on Wednesday.

Security firm F-Secure said that O'Neal's alleged actions hardly qualify as hacking.

"Listening to someone else's voicemail isn't very hard at all, neither is trying to hide computer evidence by throwing a laptop into a lake. As such, we wouldn't categorise O'Neal as a hacker," writes Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure. ®

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