Sometimes federal agents nab their suspect by following investigative leads or a money trail. But it was a trail of cellular signals gathered with a device known as a stingray that in 2008 led FBI agents to the defendant in $3 million tax fraud scheme by tracking his wireless aircard to an apartment unit in Santa Clara.
A stingray, also known by the nickname triggerfish, mimics a cell tower and can be used to pinpoint the location of wireless phones and aircards. At the same time, according to civil liberties advocates, it sucks in information from all other gadgets in its radius.
In one of the first rulings to analyze the legal framework for such surveillance, U.S. District Judge David Campbell of Arizona on Wednesday upheld the FBI’s use of a stingray to track down Daniel Rigmaiden, finding no violation of his Fourth Amendment rights “given the unique circumstances of this case”.
Campbell denied a defense motion to suppress evidence, concluding agents acted in good faith and properly obtained a warrant based on probable cause prior to employing a stingray. The Phoenix-based judge, who is presiding over the prosecution brought in the District of Arizona, also determined law enforcement’s use of a stingray to investigate Rigmaiden was not a “severe intrusion” under the Fourth Amendment.