City manager could face fraud charges over alleged operation involving encrypted police radios
Published Monday, February 25, 2019 6:24PM CST
Last Updated Monday, February 25, 2019 7:08PM CST
A City of Winnipeg manager has been arrested and could be facing charges related to his work with police radios.
According to court documents, Winnipeg police allege Ed Richardson may have fraudulently obtained millions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit software to unlock proprietary software updates from Motorola radios. Police also allege Richardson may have been helped by a local radio enthusiast, who was being monitored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Police filed the documents in court more than a year ago seeking access to Richardson’s emails. Those documents say a whistleblower from the City of Winnipeg's radio shop came forward with concerns about Richardson's "lack of integrity."
Richardson is the manager of the radio shop which repairs and maintains police radios.
Police say the Motorola radios they use encrypt and decrypt secure police communications. They require regular software updates. A device known as an i-button which contains refresh keys is used to unlock the updates.
The court documents allege starting in 2011 Richardson obtained thousands of these refresh keys and told the whistleblower at one point, “…you don't want to know where these came from."
The documents say the whistleblower believed that this was too good to be true and estimate this cost Motorola $18,800 in potential revenue.
Winnipeg police say an individual will face numerous charges including; fraud over $5,000, unauthorized use of a computer, possession of a device to obtain unauthorized use of a computer and possession of a device to obtain telecommunication service.
Richardson’s work status is unclear as the city would not comment, saying this is a human resource and police matter.
CTV News reached out to Richardson for comment but has not heard back.
Police also say Richardson was in contact over time with a local radio enthusiast who may have helped him obtain the pirated software. The documents say this local radio hobbyist is capable of enabling radio transmissions to be encrypted. They also say a significant number of these encrypted radios have been seized from Mexican drug cartel members.
Police allege the enthusiast was detained by Homeland Security in May 2016 in Dayton, Ohio and his electronics were seized, including a device to load encryption keys.
The allegations have not been tested in court.