SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A decorated former San Francisco police officer is under federal indictment and facing charges of corporate espionage. The former cop and others are accused of hiring hackers to break into a company's computer system. The whole thing came unraveled with these arrests.
A federal grand jury brought charges against five people for intercepting electronic communications; or, in laymen's terms, they're accused of hacking into private computers. The five people charged had been contracted by a company that was seeing a rival competitor for hiring away its employees.
The FBI arrested four of those indicted in the Bay Area. Former San Francisco police inspector and now private investigator Peter Siragusa was taken into custody at his home in Novato. Others arrested include Nathan Moser in Menlo Park, a third man in Oakley, and a fourth suspect in Los Angeles.
The indictment says the corporate espionage started in the early months of 2013.
Moser, a private investigator on the Peninsula, was hired by Internet marketing company Visalus to investigate its competitor Ocean Avenue. According to the indictment, Moser asked Siragusa to join the case.
The court documents charge the two men with hiring computer hackers to get Ocean Avenue's email and Skype accounts.
The government says the hackers used a keylogger to gain access to the company's protected computers. A keylogger is usually a software tool that intercepts activity on a keyboard.
Ahmed Ghappour is a specialist in security and technology at UC Hastings College of the Law. He explains how a keylogger works.
"Some will strip all the words that are typed into Internet forms," he said. "Others will function directly through the kernel and get every single key that you type."
The arrest of Siragusa came as a shock to those who know the veteran cop.
"This is a 29 year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department, a highly decorated police officer," said defense lawyer Tony Brass. "This is not someone who makes a living doing these shady things."
Brass is Siragusa's attorney. He says his client may not have known about the hacking.
"We have multiple layers of investigators," said Brass. "One subcontracting with another and so as far as who is responsible ultimately, we'll have to see how the evidence shakes out.
The FBI says the fifth suspect in this case is in India. There's a warrant for his arrest.
The U.S. attorney declined ABC7 News' requests for an interview.