NYPD veteran accused of spying on officers

Edwin Vargas, center, exits Federal Court after being Edwin Vargas, center, exits Federal Court after being arraigned in Manhattan. (May 21, 2013) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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A veteran NYPD detective is accused of paying more than $4,000 to companies that specialize in computer hacking in order to spy on fellow officers, authorities said Tuesday.

Det. Edwin Vargas, 42, apparently believed someone was having an affair with his girlfriend and was looking for evidence, according to law enforcement sources.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the arrest "may be related to a relationship he had with a young woman, who was the mother of his child."

The FBI arrested Vargas Tuesday at his Bronxville home in Westchester County.

He paid to have the firms provide email addresses, phone numbers and home addresses of roughly 30 people, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday. One of the companies allegedly used for the hacking is based on the West Coast, a law enforcement official said.

The complaint filed in Manhattan didn't specify why Vargas wanted the information. The names of the intended victims and the companies were not disclosed.

The complaint charges Vargas with computer hacking and conspiracy to commit the crime. Arraignment information wasn't available late Tuesday. If convicted, he faces up to a year in prison on each charge.

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NYPD internal affairs investigators last week made a copy of the hard drive of Vargas' work computer at the 40th Precinct in the Bronx and turned it over to the FBI.

Vargas is charged with using the hacking service from March 2011 through October 2012 to gain login information that allowed him to access about 43 personal email accounts and a mobile phone. The people he targeted included 19 current NYPD officers, a retired officer and an administrative employee, officials said.

Vargas is also accused of accessing the confidential federal National Crime Information Center database to get information about two NYPD officers without authorization. He also allegedly hacked into those officers' email accounts.

Vargas, who joined the NYPD in August 1993, has been suspended without pay, a police spokesman said.

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