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Private investigator gets probation in Shinnecock hacking case

A federal judge on Monday sentenced the former head of a private investigations company to three years' probation in connection with a computer hacking case that sharply divided the Shinnecock Indian Nation as it pursued casino ventures eight years ago.

Judge Denis Hurley also sentenced the defendant, Steven Santarpia, 51, to a $2,500 fine and a $100 special assessment after he pleaded guilty to a single count of computer hacking conspiracy. Hurley, in an unusual move, declared the court case sealed at the request of Santarpia’s lawyer Joyce London, even after the open-court proceeding.

Santarpia, whose company ICORP Investigations now is operated by his wife, told the judge in a brief statement, “I am very sorry for what I did and I take full responsibility for my actions.”

Details of precisely what Santarpia did remain a mystery.

Charles Randall, a Shinnecock tribe member who filed the initial complaint and spoke in court as a victim of the crime, made repeated requests during his statement for information about who hired and paid Santarpia, to no avail.

Randall said the hacking case, which revealed private documents in Randall's email account detailing casino ventures and other matters, said the crime “destabilized the tribal government” and threw the tribal community “into turmoil.”

“My nation hasn’t healed, my family hasn’t healed, and I definitely haven’t healed,” Randall said.

“He’s not the only co-conspirator, but I don’t even know the whole story," said Randall. "There’s no justice. I don’t feel like I’ve been made whole.”

Hurley, noting that the court is “not an investigator,” declined to directly address Randall’s request that Santarpia detail the underlying conspiracy. After the court proceedings, neither Santarpia nor federal prosecutor Brad King, would answer questions about the hacking case.

Hurley noted that Randall could pursue a civil remedy, but Randall’s sister, Lauryn Randall, outside the court, noted, “How do you go civil if the case is sealed?” She also expressed disappointment about the sentence, saying, “I know people who went to federal prison for cigarette crimes, and he gets probation?”

Hurley called the computer hacking a “serious crime,” saying it was “very troubling to me.”

But Hurley noted Santarpia had only a single prior conviction to driving while impaired.

Hurley also referred to letters from prosecutors and Santarpia's lawyer, saying, “I think he has certainly learned his lesson.” Probation monitoring will “certainly keep him on the straight and narrow,” Hurley said.

Randall said “disinformation and straight-out lies” led to abuse and recrimination against him and other tribe members he’d been working with.

But he said the larger impact was the loss of economic opportunity for the tribe, including $12 billion to $14 billion in gaming revenue and land acquisitions on Long Island.

“The place where we came from, the place where we welcomed you” more than 400 years ago, which “predates this courtroom and this court system.”

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