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HOPE Speaker Rombom Charged with Witness Tampering 218

An anonymous reader writes "Steven Rombom -- a.k.a. "Steven Rambam" -- the licensed private investigator who was arrested Saturday by FBI agents minutes before his talk on privacy at the Hope Number Six hacker convention in New York -- is being charged with witness tampering and obstruction of justice in a money laundering case the government is pursuing against Albert Santoro, a former Brooklyn assistant district attorney, according to Washingtonpost.com's Security Fix blog. The government alleges that Santoro hired Rombom to locate a government confidential informant whom Santoro accuses of entrapment, and that Rombom visited the informant's in-laws under the guise of an FBI agent and tried to convince them tha their son-in-law was a danger to their daughter and grandkids."
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HOPE Speaker Rombom Charged with Witness Tampering

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  • by grapeape ( 137008 ) <mpope7&kc,rr,com> on Monday July 24, 2006 @01:48PM (#15771432) Homepage
    Well at least the conspiracy theorists will be silenced a bit. Sounds like hes getting what he deserved. Its one thing to try and dig up dirt, its another to make it personal and try to ruin a guys family.
    • by mobby_6kl ( 668092 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @01:49PM (#15771443)
      Sounds like hes getting what he deserved. Its one thing to try and dig up dirt, its another to make it personal and try to ruin a guys family.

      What makes you think it's all true and he's (note the apostrophe) guilty?
      • by avdp ( 22065 ) * on Monday July 24, 2006 @01:57PM (#15771493)
        Of course he may be not guilty (everybody is innocent until proven guilty). However the conspiracy theorist had theorised he is being prosecuted for his activities related to the conference and a message was being sent to "hackers" out there. It turned out to be completely unrelated... Imagine that...
        • However the conspiracy theorist had theorised he is being prosecuted for his activities related to the conference [...] It turned out to be completely unrelated... Imagine that...

          Sorry, but you'll never be a conspiracy theorist with thinking like that.

          The fact that there is a cover story implies that there is a reason for a cover up and therefore the conspiracy can take a different direction. Of course, if there was nothing said that would be very damning and the original conspiracy theory would have

        • everybody is innocent until proven guilty

          Actually, everybody is innocent until they do something which would make them guilty. Proof of a fact does not create and/or change it. The laws of physics, math, etc. were working in an orderly manner well before any one decided to write them up and prove them. I think you were looking for "presumed innocent until proven guilty."

        • Yeh, but having slapped against him "totally-unrelated charges" gives an air of legitimacy to the charges (whether they are true/genuine or not). The 180 degree relation just deflects the c/t assertions and feeds the ammo belt of the pro-slap-down factions of/within government.

          Of course, if they guy DID tamper with evidence, files, and engage in money-laundering, he's gonna wish he never bit those bytes...
        • Of course he may be not guilty (everybody is innocent until proven guilty).

          That is the most trampled phrase I've ever seen. It is that they are *presumed* innocent by the system until proven guilty. That's why they are allowed to change from their jail clothes to a suit before going into the court room for their trial. However, whether they are or are not guilty is not an issue that the courts can decide. The court can find them guilty, and find them not guilty. However, a court can't find anyone "i
    • Well at least the conspiracy theorists will be silenced a bit. Sounds like hes getting what he deserved. Its one thing to try and dig up dirt, its another to make it personal and try to ruin a guys family.

      Oh country air! This is just the thing to fuel conspiracy theorists. Can't you see how preposterous and convoluted this tale is? It's like something out of TV, ffs! The Man jumped the shark by having it cooked up by a former hollywood hack writer. All this to keep Rambam from speaking.

      In all seri

    • conspiracy theorists rule number 1:
      you can't shut up conspiracy theorists so matter how wild their lunacy is.

      rule number 2:
      conspiracy theorists are loons.

      • rule number 3:
        Just because they are blabber mouthed lunatics, it doesn't mean they are always wrong.
        (Remember the old church clock ... even though it's broken, it still shows the right time twice a day.)
  • Oops (Score:2, Funny)

    by dotslashdot ( 694478 )
    Before the details came out, I was a little concerned with FBI heavyhanded tactics. Now that the details are out, sounds like this Rambam guy will be spending time in the Slamslam.
    • Re:Oops (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kfg ( 145172 ) * on Monday July 24, 2006 @01:52PM (#15771455)
      Now that the details are out . . .

      The details are not yet out. Only the accusation is out.

      KFG
  • He's probably lucky he never was able to locate the witness... What do you think would have happened to the witness if he did? Maybe I watch too much sopranos, but I would assume since this was all related to a drug dealers money laundrying... The witness would have been "whacked" and Rambam would have been facing conspiracy / murder charges as well...

    • I don't know if simply hunting down a witness for someone is sufficient. I suspect that they would have to prove that he knew that the person who hired him intended harm to the witness.

  • You know, this just adds fuel to the argument "If you don't have anything to hide, why worry about your privacy?"

    Obviously, he had plenty to hide.
  • I think . . . (Score:2, Informative)

    by OverlordQ ( 264228 )
    I think all the Conspiracy Theorists from the last thread owe the rest of us a big apology.

    Lets take a look at some of the gems.

    nothing like a public arrest to keep the populac in line.
    I'm not saying that this arrest was for those purposes, but if you have large gathering of people who are all on the fringes of the law, a not so sutble way to remind them that they are being watched is arresting someone with a relatively high profile within the group.

    And this classic:

    Don't be a fruitcake. Given the present a

    • How is it that they owe us an apology? Clearly the TIMING of this arrest is the for purposes you quoted.
      • Unless that was the FBI's best chance for knowing where he would be at what time.
        • Re:I think . . . (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by vux984 ( 928602 )
          Unless that was the FBI's best chance for knowing where he would be at what time.

          They have to rely on his scheduled appearances to catch up to him? Y

          What was the point of illegally tapping his phone, recording all his internet activty, and monitoring his bank and credit card transactions if they can't even use it to find they guy?

          Clearly the administration needs to start implanting RFID tags in all Americans, and visitors. They'll never catch up to the terr'ists if they have to wait until they have schedule
        • Clearly they were so surprised that their plan went off without a hitch, that they were speechless as to what the charges were. /sarcasm

          But in reality, there must have been some nefarious intentions if they waited so long to announce the reason for his arrest. Hitting the preverbal 2 birds with one stone. Considering that many people will not see this as follow-up to the original news I would think it a safe bet that the FBI freaked out some _hackers_.
          • But in reality, there must have been some nefarious intentions if they waited so long to announce the reason for his arrest. Hitting the preverbal 2 birds with one stone.

            Sure. Over here, that "nefarious" thing which makes agencies withold information is called weekend.

    • I think the examples you gave were closer to hyperbole than actual conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories are a bit more complex and shadowy, with an actual, you know, theory, like "Clinton killed Vince Foster because Vince was about to expose x, y, and z about his something or other in Arkansas, and then he hid the body, planted the gun, and...." You get the idea. Yes, people are antsy over due process and the rule of law, mainly because the President of the United States and Attorney General have ex
  • Geez, all the analysis from a few days ago sounded like poor Rombom was arrested for doing private investigator stuff on a willing "victim" and that the FBI was stupidly overreacting.

    That, friends, is why it's a bad idea to get worked up before you know both sides of an issue. It's too stressful to work up a righteous indignation only to find out that the other side had a valid point you didn't know about.

    • . . .the other side had a valid point you didn't know about.

      Among the evidence accumulated against him so far; a bumper sticker on Steve's car that reads:

      What would Jim Rockford do?

      KFG
      • I agree with what you've said here and elsewhere in this topic, but you have to admit that witness tampering is at least a legitimate crime, and not as stupid as the straw man charges that Slashdotters were inventing and then disproving a few days ago. Maybe he's innocent (and we have to presume that he is), but at least we know that the crimes they're accusing him of could possibly be real.

        Again, not saying the FBI is right, and he still deserves a presumption of innocence, but it looks like they're not

        • >Maybe he's innocent (and we have to presume that he is)
          fooey, that seams to be what the P.C. crowd here thinks has to be said.
          When that nigerian whats a $50 to free his $10 million property, do I have to assume he is innocent until proven guily by taking my money? only within the criminal courtroom do we have to assume some innocence. Heck they better have presented some proof that he was guilty before they grabbed and locked him up, so I am going to assume him guilty (perhaps of some complete B.S. ch
          • I'll have to clip and save this rant to recite the next time I want to get out of jury duty.
          • When that nigerian whats a $50 to free his $10 million property, do I have to assume he is innocent until proven guily by taking my money?

            Well what we're really dealing with is someone claiming that some nigerian is a scammer, in which case yes you should assume that he is innocent, but that doesn't mean you have to give him your money either.

            In other words, assuming someone is innocent is not the same as allowing them to take advantage of your assumption. An example slanted the other way: I have no reaso
          • Heck they better have presented some proof that he was guilty before they grabbed and locked him up,

            "Evidence" is NOT "proof" and vise versa.

            You can arrest someone on very little, very flaky evidence. That's what a trial is for.

            I am going to assume they are all guilty of planning to steal my property, and secure it the best way I can,

            That's not "guilt" in any sense of the word, that's "suspicion".

            Your whole insane rant is based entirely on a mistaken understanding of vocabulary...

    • by dafz1 ( 604262 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @02:20PM (#15771653)
      This is Slashdot, we live on righteous indignation.

      If this account by the FBI is true, Rombom(Rambam, whatever)did a really horrible thing to the witness and his family. Was it worthy of the public arrest? Even Al Capone got to go quietly.

      The sad thing is such shakedowns happen all of the time. When the FBI does it, it's called "gathering evidence". When a PI does, it's called "witness tampering". The difference? One has a REAL badge.
      • The difference? One has a REAL badge.
        Which makes me wonder why they haven't tacked on a charge of falsely impersonating a Federal agent.

        My guess is that witness tampering is a much heavier crime and they don't have much more than "well, the witness' family says he flashed a badge."

        Maybe once they get a search warrant for his home and/or place of business, they'll dig up some fake badges or ID & tack on the impersonation charge.
      • by mrxak ( 727974 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @02:58PM (#15771961)
        Uh, the difference is that impersonating a federal officer is a crime, and that being an actual federal officer is not. And the FBI didn't walk in and tell everyone that Rambam is dangerous, they simply arrested him. What this PI allegedly did was illegal, arresting him for that illegal activity in a public place shouldn't be illegal.
        • Uh, the difference is that impersonating a federal officer is a crime, and that being an actual federal officer is not.

          Well, there's the problem! All we need to do is make sure that actually *being* a federal officer is as much, if not more, of a crime as impersonating one.

          Simple!
      • Even Al Capone got to go quietly.

        Al Capone was arrested for tax evasion, not threatening witnesses.

        Martha Stewart also got to go quietly.
  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @01:59PM (#15771502)
    "This reporter promises to be more trusting and less vigilant in the future."
  • by msparshatt ( 877862 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @02:02PM (#15771523)
    It seems that most of the people who are replying to this story haven't heard the expression "Innocent until proven guilty" We know what he's been charged with but we still have no idea whether he did it or not. So the people assuming he got what he deserved are just as guilty of jumping the gun as the people who assumed it was a conspiracy.
    • > "Innocent until proven guilty"

      Incorrect. Its 'Presumed innocent until proven guilty'. This statement is meant to infer that the courts should 'presume innocence' and let the evidence convince the judge/jury of the accusations. If you were innocent until proven guilty, then only innocent people would be convicted of crimes.

      I know its sounds nit-pickish, but its obvious some people really don't understand this.
    • It seems like most of the replies are saying, "see, it's best to reserve judgment." Very few posters are accusing him of being guilty, the vast majority are simply pointing out that perhaps indeed the government had a perfectly valid reason for arresting Rombom and he's not just a victim carefully chosen by the government to make an example and help control the populace.

      • Very few posters are accusing him of being guilty

        No, they're just snidely suggesting that it's a done deal while taking the opportunity to suck the cock of the FBI for their 'cunning' and 'wisdom' over arresting the guy in a public place, all the while denying that our poor, valiant feds would stoop to anything as base and crass as grandstanding. Oh, no! Gods forbid that a government agency would *ever* be involved in such childish behavior!

        Only on Slashdot will you see conspiracy whackos going off on the
    • That only applies in the court of law.

      In the real world things work differently.

    • It seems that most of the people who are replying to this story haven't heard the expression "Innocent until proven guilty" We know what he's been charged with but we still have no idea whether he did it or not. So the people assuming he got what he deserved are just as guilty of jumping the gun as the people who assumed it was a conspiracy.

      A trial is to establish guilt. In this case, it is alleged that he did it, he rented a car on the same day as the incidnet took place, a car answering that descriptio

  • Obviously I don't know about witness tampering.

    Once he'd ID'd the confidential informant, wouldn't you expect him to search various records for embarrassing stuff, and then bribe, blackmail, or discredit the informant?

    How does lying to the in-laws help obstruct justice? The closest thing to an explanation that comes to mind would be trying to convince the informant that the FBI was abusive and untrustworthy and that he should stop working with them.

    Scummy is understandable, but only when it's goal-directed.
    • Anything that potentially induces a witness to fail to testify, or to alter their testimony, qualifies at witness tampering. In this case lying to the in-laws was intended to create consequences for the witness if he were to proceed as a witness for the prosecution. The expectation on the witness's part would be that if he continued with testifying that the consequences would escalate, possibly to violence.

      I'm surprised they're not also charging him with impersonating a federal agent which is a serious crim
      • In this case lying to the in-laws was intended to create consequences for the witness if he were to proceed as a witness for the prosecution.

        What lie did he tell that was related to the witness testifying? Was it a lie that the family of the witness was in danger? Someone paid this guy to lean on the in-laws. So, would it be unreasonable to believe that the same people wouldn't hire someone to lean on the close family? Perhaps the "lean on" would be more aggressive with the close family. I'm not argu
        • But that'll not stop us from guessing.

          Oh, so true.

          Well, granted we don't know if the whole "this man is dangerous" is a lie or not, however the complaint sure made it feel that way. Regardless of the truthfulness I'd say it smells like witness tampering to my non-lawyer brain.

          We do know for sure this guy lied about his status as a federal agent (which as I mentioned is a crime by itself), so it also seems reasonable everything else he said would be a fabrication. Especially since he simply said "there are t

    • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @04:04PM (#15772381)
      How does lying to the in-laws help obstruct justice?

      Specifically, opening up a witness to intimidation by relaying his personal details to the people the FBI is trying to hide him from is obstruction of justice because it might cause him not to testify.

      Scummy is understandable, but only when it's goal-directed.

      When the goal is exposing a witness under federal protection to the very criminals they're trying to hide him from, you better be happy that people can be arrested for that.
  • the FBI... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pulse2600 ( 625694 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @02:08PM (#15771556)
    The FBI did 2600 a favor by doing this during the convention...I'm sure this arrest will bring more attention to 2600 and the HOPE conventions, watch how much the attendance goes up for the next con due to the added publicity.
  • "The government alleges that Santoro hired Rombom to locate a government confidential informant whom Santoro accuses of entrapment, and that Rombom visited the informant's in-laws under the guise of an FBI agent and tried to convince them tha their son-in-law was a danger to their daughter and grandkids."

    It's an enigma wrapped up in a paradox made into a riddle.
    If anyone can figure out exactly what he is being charged with, please call his lawyers immediately.
    • by jjohnson ( 62583 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @02:25PM (#15771692) Homepage
      He's being charged with Witness Tampering. What's not clear? The defendent (allegedly) had Rombom locate the government's CI against him, and then try to intimidate the informant by turning his in-laws against him; exerting any pressure on a witness is illegal. I'm surprised they're not charging him with impersonating a law enforcement officer, too.
  • Perhaps this incident will inspire a new Kinky Friedman novel. If it gives Linux some publicity, so much the better.
  • The Kinky angle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stereoroid ( 234317 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @04:34PM (#15772593) Homepage Journal
    Here's some conspiracy fodder for y'all: anyone who's read any of Kinky Friedman's [kinkyfriedman.com] books will recognize the name Rambam. He's a longtime personal friend of the Kinkster, and appears in his books, as one of the few characters who doesn't need a checkup from the neck up. Could this arrest be an attempt to discredit Kinky, who is running for a political office this year? The same office once held by George W Bush: Governor of Texas. I smell a Ratso..!
    • Kinky F. doesnt need to have his friends arrested to be discredited, he'll do it by himself just fine.
      If anything his run for Tx governor is more about getting his books and other junk sold than
      any sort of serious committment to public service. It is entertaining though.

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