It was around 6:30 am when federal agents crashed through the front door of a Buffalo, New York residence. The sun had just peeked over the horizon. The occupants of the home-- a married couple-- were still tucked away under the sheets when they were startled awake by the sudden loud noise downstairs. Alarmed, the husband jumped out of bed, threw on a robe, and rushed down the stairs to find a group of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers (ICE) pointing assault rifles in his face.
According to the man's lawyer, Barry Covert, the federal agents immediately pinned him to the steps yelling, "Get down! Get down on the ground!" The man, unaware of what the ICE acronym printed on their chests meant, was both frightened and confused, asking over and over "Who are you?" All he heard in response were screamed slurs like "Pedophile" and "Pornographer."
Eventually he was forced to get dressed at gunpoint and taken to an interrogation room at a government facility. There they said he downloaded thousands upon thousands of child pornography images at around 11:30 pm the previous night using the name "Doldrum." Shocked by the accusations, he denied everything, saying it must have been someone else. It was only when the agents seized his family's laptops, iPads and iPhones and came up empty handed when the agents began to believe his story.
Later the federal agents found their real suspect: John Luchetti, a 25-year-old college student and neighbor, who was leeching off the man's Wi-Fi from an apartment complex nearby. They also discovered that "Doldrum" accessed two IP addresses at State University of New York at Buffalo, using a secured token, to access similar files. The university handed over the student's true identity leading to Luchetti's arrest on March 17. Luchetti has pleaded not guilty to the accusations.
The investigation originally began on February 11 when ICE agents retrieved peer-to-peer file transfers from "Doldrum" and grabbed his IP address... which happened to be the original suspect's broadband connection. The ISP handed over the homeowner's physical address and then went barreling through the front door without gaining a warranted entry the correct way. Had the agents done a thorough investigation in the first place, they would have discovered that "Doldrum" was connecting from other IP addresses as well. The intrusion into the first suspect's home could have been avoided.
But in all actuality, the man's home wouldn't have even been on the radar had his Wi-Fi broadband router been set up with proper security measures. It seems to be a common problem throughout the nation, as a study conducted by Wakefield Research (on behalf of the Wi-Fi Alliance) discovered that 32-percent of adults surveyed have actually leeched off unsecured Wi-Fi connections without prior approval. Currently there are an estimated 201 million Wi-Fi connections nationwide.
The lesson here should be obvious: secure your internet connection if you're using Wi-Fi in the house.
U.S. Attorney William Hochul and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Lev Kubiak reportedly have apologized to the homeowner. Instead of filing a lawsuit, the man simply wants the story to be told, mainly to pressure federal agents into doing a better job at investigating suspicious internet activity.