As it turns out I wasn’t thrown in prison. The FBI certainly had enough evidence against me to convict me of telephone fraud and tampering with money transfers, but they were more interesting in finding the man behind the money mill attack. Of the three crimes that were committed on July 11th, the money mill was by far the most serious.
The FBI released me late that same night. Instead of arresting me they struck a deal with me; I would be working with them now, however reluctantly. As the person closest to events on the 11th, I was in the best position to assist them. I would remain the prime suspect, but I was free to move about. I could not leave the country and I had to inform them of any travel outside of Chicago.
As I plodded through the door I could not help but think that it seemed an eternity since I had last walked out that same door on my way to dinner, having obtained what I hoped would be the key to unlocking the mystery of the money mill. I had been optimistic that the X9 documents would hold the information I needed to block the flow of money going through the mill.
Exhausted, I slumped in the chair by the TV; not the broken chair but the other one. As I sat there listening to the incessant sound of the leaky faucet in the kitchen, I recalled the conversation I had with Rudy the night before. I had stopped at his apartment on the way home. There was no need to be concerned about being followed now; I had already been arrested. I had nothing more to hide.
After I had told Rudy what happened, he explained that he too had been arrested. They held him overnight but eventually released him for lack of evidence. Apparently the FBI wasn’t ready to start going after the “check is in the mail” variety of crimes.
Rudy explained that his interrogation had not been pleasant. “They did not break any laws,” he said, “but they were still rather menacing: bright lights in my eyes; six hours of questioning with no interruption; verbal abuse…” He sighed deeply. “One of the agents — a large gentleman, must have weighed 250 pounds, all muscle — was quite overbearing and for a full hour shouted continuously. I think they were disappointed I do not have family here in the States; they insinuated that they would not hesitate to inconvenience my family. I honestly believe they were disappointed to learn that I have no strong attachments.”
I looked down at my sneakers and said nothing. I began to feel guilty for complaining about my own less extreme treatment.
Rudy continued. “My father grew up under the Nicolae Ceausescu regime in Romania. He used to tell me frightening stories. My brother was in Timisoara during the demonstrations. During the FBI questioning I actually experienced flashbacks to their accounts of Romania.” He shuddered visibly as he said this. We did not talk long after that. Rudy let me sleep at his apartment that night. By the time I awoke the next morning, sore from sleeping on the floor, Rudy had already left for work. I scribbled a short note thanking him and left for my apartment.
Now, back in my apartment, I pulled myself out the chair and walked over to the Alpha to check my mail. I had two e-mail messages from Lisa. They said she wanted to get together and talk. This angered me. I didn’t send a reply. I didn’t have anything to say to her. I deleted the messages, took a quick shower, and left the apartment to go for a walk and blow off steam.
I couldn’t decide if I was angrier with her or myself. I had misjudged her. I had been under the impression that there was a bond between us and that we understood each other.
Why would she turn me in? Yes, I was engaged in illegal activity, and yes, I had tampered with her financial transactions. But she was not adversely affected by this — other than the rough treatment by the bank executives, and she had forgiven me for that (supposedly). Suddenly I wondered what had transpired behind the closed doors of the meeting she had at First Chicago on the day I had my first glimpse of her. Or what about the interval between our meeting in her apartment lobby and our dinner conversation later that day? Had she called the police then? Had she been in contact with the FBI all this time? Had she been a spy? Working directly with Rudy and I as she had, she was in the perfect position to spy.
Surely Lisa realized that I was not an evil person out to do real harm. Surely. Surely? Was it possible that she actually suspected me of the other EFT crimes?
Again I found myself wondering if I had crossed the line and fallen into the sleazy side of computer security. I recalled the accusations of the wiry fair-haired FBI agent from the day before. Suddenly I felt more like a modern-day Al Cappone than a modern-day Ralph Nadar. Once I fancied myself as a consumer advocate, but perhaps I was only a menace to people that would use computers benevolently and courteously.