Ineptitude of Joe Arpaio's Former Chief Deputy on Display in Possible Massive Data Breach

Categories: News

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Matthew Hendley
A story this week from the nonprofit investigative journalism outlets ProPublica and the Center for Investigative Reporting explores how a Chinese national gained access to all kinds of sensitive records, such as the Arizona driver's license database, before he disappeared.

"[T]he people responsible for hiring [Lizhong] Fan say one thing is clear: The privacy of as many as 5 million Arizona residents and other citizens has been exposed," the story states.

And we'll give you one guess which local law-enforcement agency is at the center of the controversy.

See also:
-Joe Arpaio's Ex-Chief Deputy David Hendershott Now Selling Real Estate

Of course, it's Joe Arpaio's Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, and more specifically, Arpaio's former chief deputy, David Hendershott.

From the story:

It was Hummingbird Defense Systems, a small Phoenix firm striving to break into the security technology market, that offered the opportunity. Hendershott, Arpaio's chief deputy, had years before become friends with Steve Greschner, Hummingbird's chief executive.

In fact, Hendershott first hired Hummingbird in 2003 to use its facial recognition software to watch for sex offenders at a Phoenix elementary school. The sheriff's office installed it soon after at its outdoor jail, famously known as Tent City. The fact that the technology flopped - one report by jail officials said a day's growth of a beard defeated its ability to accurately identify prisoners - didn't deter Arpaio's office, in the person of Hendershott, from encouraging Napolitano to put Hummingbird's technology to work at the intelligence center.

Greschner started partnering with some Chinese associates, and even got Henderschott in on trips to China. By the time Hummingbird's technology was being implemented at MCSO, "Greschner had already ceded significant control over Hummingbird's inner workings to Detaq, his business partner and liaison to China," the story states.

That's how the Chinese programmer in question came into play:

Hummingbird, without vetting [Lizhong] Fan further, sought his work visa, Greschner said, adding that he assumed law enforcement or other government officials took a closer look at the Chinese national. Greschner said he was asked by an official with the sheriff's department in 2006 to provide a numeric code for Fan's name, often used in investigations to pinpoint Chinese identity, which he did. In the application, Greschner said that Fan possessed skills not readily available in the U.S.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office endorsed Fan as well. In a September 2006 letter to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a senior sheriff's official wrote that Fan already "demonstrated an extensive knowledge of the esoteric science" that converts human faces into data points. Such knowledge "appears to be" scarce.

Officials at the intelligence center discussed the wisdom of hiring a Chinese national for such sensitive work, according to Beasley, the counterterrorism director for the state's public safety department. Beasley said he opposed it without success.

"Was there a concern? Absolutely," Beasley said, "because China is not our friend."
Cindy Bonomolo was the sheriff's deputy most often assigned to monitor Fan inside the intelligence center.

"I was told he did the facial recognition for Tiananmen Square," Bonomolo said in a June interview. "They said he was the best of the best. I have to say, this man was a genius."
Greschner said Fan looked quite at home in the center.

"It was like 'I was a member of the club' - you know what I mean?" Greschner said of Fan.
Bonomolo's ability to judge Fan's talent or oversee the integrity of his daily work in the intelligence center was not great. She'd chiefly served as a patrol or corrections officer within the sheriff's office. In an interview, she said she has no knowledge of computer science. Bonomolo said she had no reason to distrust Fan, and the two became close over discussions about her Christian faith. Fan became a Christian while in the U.S., she said.
Much of Fan's job involved moving terabytes of data to servers. There were driver's license records from the state, arrest files from county jails and criminal history data that had to be uploaded. Next, Hummingbird needed Fan to edit the facial recognition software so that it could reliably search all those different databases.

Fan had access to the center's main network, according to three sources with first-hand knowledge of Fan's work arrangements. From there, he would have been able to see the directory of federal agents and state police working at the Arizona counterterrorism center, said Haney, the retired immigration agent.

Thus, day after day, Fan enjoyed the rarest of access to confidential personal and investigative files.

Then, on the first Tuesday of June 2007, according to a former law enforcement official, Fan paid cash for airfare to Beijing at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport ticket counter. Fan's luggage, Greschner and Li said, carried two laptops and additional hard drives.

Whoops.

The Sheriff's Office maintained that no one else at MCSO was kept in the loop on the Fan situation by Hendershott:

For his part, Hendershott, the No. 2 man at the sheriff's office, was concerned about keeping the potential embarrassment from becoming public, according to documents. One email exchange shows that Hendershott contemplated reaching Fan in China and paying him to stay quiet.

"Make sure that he knows that I just want your stuff and no trouble," Hendershott wrote to Greschner, the Hummingbird executive who had hired Fan. "Just want him to go away. Can he and his wife keep their mouth shut?"

Hendershott was forced out of MCSO a few years ago for various acts of misconduct.

Our colleague Ray Stern, who chronicled many of Hendershott's misdeeds, once summed up his rap sheet like this: "Hendy's long list of misdeeds would take a book or three to describe in detail, but suffice it to say that none of them lend the ex-cop an aura of trustworthiness."

Click here to check out the whole ProPublica/CIR story.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.
Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.



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41 comments
anonymox101
anonymox101

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fankromank555
fankromank555

lol, now why am I not the least bit surprised lol.


www.Crypt-Anon.tk

Christine Tryon Rice
Christine Tryon Rice

Hmmm, don't you think your Federal inepts should be taking the reins instead of letting it fall to the local law enforcement? Identify the real problem. Derelict law breakers hate Joe, but love the cesspool and leader o sh^#!

Dontbelieveit
Dontbelieveit

Don't hardly know what to say about Arizona politics anymore Whoever is holding the juice card should give it up I've lived here all my life (65 years ) and have seen this shit happen over and over Damn ,It's time to flush the damn toilet don't you think .one crook after another....very scandalous affair they have going: - )

Nicholas Babcock
Nicholas Babcock

Gary Trayler, your statement implies that you're referring to non.citizens. When you said "breaking our laws while in our country" implies that people who don't live are breaking laws while they are here.

Nicholas Babcock
Nicholas Babcock

Me:. Sheriff Arpaio is bad at his job, and bad for the state of Arizona. Arpaio Supporter: Obama Me: What does the POTUS have to do with a county sheriff that doesn't do his job? Arpaio supporter: socialist The sage continues: facts vs fiction

Al Dvl
Al Dvl

once again .... FUCK YOU JOE

Slappy
Slappy

"One email exchange shows that Hendershott contemplated reaching Fan in China and paying him to stay quiet."

If a crime occurred, Hendershott is an accessory after the fact.  He knows a breach of national security occurred, yet he is attempting to conceal the crime by paying off the individual who stole the material. 

Michael Cardoza
Michael Cardoza

Not as scary as ISIS possibly infiltrating our borders.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

Holder and the DOJ better start securing federal criminal indictments for this latest bullshit.

I smell a breach of national security.

Does anyone else think Rachel Alexander had something to do with this? She's a computer nerd after all...

La Messa Qvo
La Messa Qvo

Lol. Gary Trayler blaming Obama. At least the lost of weapons & dead crooked Cops havent reopened any cases.. Lol,OBAMA!!

lancechendrickson
lancechendrickson

O.k., can somebody point to the reason why we're all assuming this was just incompetence, as opposed to something purposeful?  Look who was assigned to watch Fan -- somebody with no computer-science expertise.  Who did that nominally-boneheaded assigning?  Did that person need money?  Has that person come into some money lately?  (Say, for "consulting" perhaps?)


And let's not forget: unless Arizona has a custon-built one-off database (possible - I dunno), you know what else you get with access to it?  You get to learn exactly how some (if not many/most) of the rest of them work.


So, let's say you're China.  Let's also say you really need an American politician to go your way on something.  Let's also say this politician is otherwise squeaky-clean (pffft...).  Wanna take him/her down (or, threaten to)?  Just cook up a few fake sex-offender or kiddie-porn investigation reports, load 'em remotely into state law-enforcement databases wherever it's believable, and then leak the reports to the press.


It's easy to just say "oh, that Hendershott, what an incompetent Arpaio lackey boob he was."  But I'm not so sure about that.

Matthew H. Owens
Matthew H. Owens

Hendershitt... Incompetent? And to think he was considered to be the brains of the operation. What does that make nickel bag joe?

Nvchris Detectoraid
Nvchris Detectoraid

This is not a creditable news source. Soup, ironic that you use that as a illogical analogy for the food stamp president. Kyo Ono, this is the man who just announced that "we have no strategy"

Kyo Ono
Kyo Ono

There is a hair in my soup!!! I blame Obama \U0001f612

Gary Trayler
Gary Trayler

Read my comment idiot I included those breaking our laws while in our country

Cotita Solaines
Cotita Solaines

You should read the article first, this guy was here legally ...how do you like them apples?

Nathan Schneider
Nathan Schneider

Do you idiots ever shut up about Obama? My goodness it's annoying. And you people say the stupidest things...

Gary Trayler
Gary Trayler

Thank Obama for allowing border patrol and homeland security to do nothing about illegals and those breaking our laws while in our country

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whoknows
whoknows

Inepitude...oh know, they knew perfectly well what was going on.  Anything for the Joe PR machine.  I would be more worried about Jerry Sheridan at the moment.  If he has the smarts to take out Hendy, he is more evil then anyone thinks.  Joe knows exactly what is going on.

whoknows
whoknows

And you really think that Sheriff Joe didn't know what was going on?  Then I would say you need to check with him about the real estate in Florida swamp.

RobAZ
RobAZ

This could be huge.  But nobody wants to talk.
Hopefully the story grows some legs.

Slappy
Slappy

No adult supervision at MCSO.  First it was missing weapons, and now this.  Arpaio needs to contact Steven Seagal to see if he has one of Arpaio's weapons. 

TommyCollins
TommyCollins topcommenter

I'm fairly sure the militia will take care of them. Unless, of course, the militia is shot to death by the Border Patrol...

rh19541954
rh19541954

Do not worry to much, when you see them riding their camels across the desert you might start worrying till then I think they have their hands full in middle east!:-)

Snowblower
Snowblower

@lancechendrickson

Lance – I tend to agree with your assessment(s).They put a rookie, non-technical deputy in charge of overseeing a Chinese computer whiz?How does that work?Once the guy is tapped into the inside Ethernet, your network is compromised.Without a doubt, this individual made off with the entire driver’s license database along with who knows what?Combine that with where the U.S. is currently aligned with its facial recognition capabilities.I’m am sure he has now been properly rewarded.There is no way possible to ‘vet’ a Chinese national.Oldest trick in the book is a friend of a friend that knows a friend.Hendy was just a facilitator and as much as Arpaio and Sheridan would like to lay blame to Hendy, it is passed that time.Bottom-line, every Arizona citizen has their photo and personal information compromised at a minimum along with whatever other information and technology could be had.Kid in a candy store.Plain and simple, the blame rests on all those who turned their head the other way without questioning the logic of people in power.I’m sure there are some current, probably dead whistleblowers out there that attempted to expose the problem but were banished to the desert in the name of protecting Arpaio, Sheridan, Napolitano, brainless CIO’s, etc, etc. Move on, nothing here to see.Joe – don’t you have an interview with Sean so you can tell us about the security breaches on the border?Smartest narcissist on the planet.

WhoKnows
WhoKnows topcommenter

@whoknows Who knew I have such a fan to try and take my long term handle here!

WhoKnows
WhoKnows topcommenter

@RobAZ Just because Joke and his clown show love to hang around with communists and give them our data?  


Gitmo for Henderblimp!  He can be then known as "The Beached Whale in Cuba"

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

@ooaiaa12 hahahahaha.............trust you? Oakleys for $15 ?? and you want us to trust you?? hahahahahahahahahaha

good one bud, that was pretty funny.............did you steal that line like you did all those product names?

thanks but no thanks, i will support those actual companies and get the real products instead of the cheap Chinese knock offs you are selling

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

@Slappy Seagal is too busy shilling for Putin. I sure do hope some of the stuff exposed here is actionable. But nothing in the article says that any of it is currently under investigation. If not, the FBI et al need to start poking around asap. Deputy, arrest Jabba the Hutt, uh, I mean Mr Hendershott!

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@rh19541954


Well rh, you have your head buried in the sand of that desert, if you think ISIS isn't a threat.  And their brother, obama, is inviting copious quantities of them across our southern border.  

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

Oh I know that ccaz.

Thanks to Lisa Aubuchon I have enough shit to bury all those clowns.

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

@Snowblower @lancechendrickson Problem with your scenario is that the State of Arizona regularly SELLS this data to the public. 

The "spy" part is where the Chinese government now knows who Arizona has on the counterrorism group - with that info they can cross-reference and find out who those people interract with and find out other States and National counterrorism people. 

What I'd like to know is if this was a deliberate act and who got paid by the Government of China to allow this data breach to happen. 

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