THE DRAGNET: How a man accused of million-dollar fraud uncovered a never before seen, secret surveillance device

Three months after the FedEx episode, on August 3rd, the task force descended on an apartment complex near the San Jose airport, rented in the name Steven Travis Brawner. Agents caught Rupard outside the complex, and served a search warrant on his apartment and storage unit later that day. They found $117,000 in US currency, 230 ounces of gold, and 588 ounces of silver, along with the dark gray hoodie tying him to the drop at the train station and a Verizon AirCard tying him to the bank accounts. By the time the case was over, the agents would recover more than $1.4 million.

The suspect was charged with 35 counts of wire fraud, 35 counts of aggravated identity theft, and three other miscellaneous charges — enough to keep him in jail for the rest of his life. Taking his fingerprints three days later, the police finally worked back to his name — not Rupard, or Stout, or Brawner, or Aldrich, or any of the others. His name was Daniel Rigmaiden.

But there was something else, something that wasn’t reported on the seizure affidavit, the complaint, or any of the documents that followed. To track Rigmaiden down, the investigators had used a secret device, one that allowed them to pinpoint their target with far more accuracy than Verizon could. They called it a cell-site simulator, or by its trade name, Stingray. Neither term was found in the court order that authorized its use. The device had to be kept secret, even from the courts.

The Stingray had worked perfectly. Agents traced the suspect’s AirCard back to his apartment and now had more than enough evidence for a conviction. But in the years that followed, that open-and-shut case would turn into something far more complex. Working from prison, Rigmaiden would unravel decades of secrecy, becoming the world’s foremost authority on the device that sent him to jail. By the time he was finished, a covert surveillance device and the system that kept it secret would be exposed to the public for the very first time.

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