Long arm of law reaches into World of Warcraft

By chillinwill · Jan 2, 2010 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    The virtual world of online gaming seems like the perfect place to hide. There is plenty of anonymity, and it’s almost impossible for someone to trace activity back to its source, right? Wrong.

    Two weeks ago, Howard County Sheriff’s Department deputy Matt Roberson tracked down a wanted fugitive through one of the most popular games on the Internet — World of Warcraft. And he got his man.

    “You hear stories about you can’t get someone through the Internet,” said Roberson. “Guess what??You can. I just did. Here you are, playing World of Warcraft, and you never know who you’re playing with.”

    In this case, online gamers were playing alongside Alfred Hightower, a man wanted on charges of dealing in a schedule III controlled substance and dealing in a schedule IV controlled substance, and two charges of dealing in marijuana. A warrant was issued for his arrest in 2007.

    The sheriff’s department enlisted the aid of the U.S. Marshals this summer to track down a number of fugitives as part of Operation: Falcon, and Hightower was among those targeted. Unfortunately, authorities were unable to locate him. Roberson soon found out why. The suspect had skipped the country.

    “I received information from a childhood friend, who tells me the guy is in Canada,” said Roberson. “I held onto the information in the back of my head. I spoke to the marshals and asked if we could confirm the guy’s location, would they help us get him? They indicated that they would.”

    With the help of sheriff’s major Steve Rogers, Roberson began gathering information on Hightower through a number of sources. That is how they discovered that their suspect was a World of Warcraft fan.

    “We received information that this guy was a regular player of an online game, which was referred to as ‘some warlock and witches’ game,” said Roberson. “None of that information was sound enough to pursue on its own, but putting everything we had together gave me enough evidence to send a subpoena to Blizzard Entertainment. I knew exactly what he was playing — World of Warcraft. I used to play it. It’s one of the largest online games in the world.”

    Indeed, World of Warcraft is among the most popular online pastimes today, boasting more than 14 million players in dozens of countries — including Canada. But this is the Internet, and Blizzard is in California. Roberson’s subpoena was nothing more than a politely worded request, considering the limits of his law enforcement jurisdiction and the ambiguity of the online world.

    “They don’t have to respond to us, and I was under the assumption that they wouldn’t,” said Roberson. “It had been three or four months since I had sent the subpoena. I just put it in the back of my mind and went on to do other things. Then I finally got a response from them. They sent me a package of information. They were very cooperative. It was nice that they were that willing to provide information.”

    Blizzard did more than cooperate. It gave Roberson everything he needed to track down Hightower, including his IP address, his account information and history, his billing address, and even his online screen name and preferred server. From there it was a simple matter to zero in on the suspect’s location.

    “I did a search off the IP?address to locate him,” said Roberson. “I got a longitude and latitude. Then I went to Google Earth. It works wonders. It uses longitude and latitude. Boom! I had an address. I was not able to go streetside at the location, but I had him.”

    Roberson and Rogers contacted the U.S. Marshals, who immediately notified the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Border Services Agency. According to Rogers, Canadian authorities located Hightower in Ottawa, Ontario, and arranged to have him deported. The marshals picked up the suspect in Minneapolis, and Howard County has until Jan. 5 to bring him back here to face charges.

    “Roberson did some great work on this deal,” said sheriff Marty Talbert. “This is the first time in my seven years as sheriff that a fugitive was located in Canada. Rogers and Roberson did an outstanding job coordinating this.”

    Talbert explained that this online manhunt isn’t the first time his department has ventured onto the Internet to track down a suspect. Earlier this year, sheriff’s deputies used a phone number look-up Web site to find a man in North Carolina who was wanted on charges in Howard County. In that case, authorities found their suspect through an online classified ad on Craig’s List.

    “Suspects cannot be allowed to escape facing criminal charges by simply moving and relocating,” said Talbert.

    By Patrick Munsey
    December 31, 2009
    Kokomo Perspective

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  1. dyingtomorrow
    The story here:

    Some psychotic asshole officer wasted a shitload of time, resources, and taxpayer money to track down a guy in another country, who was selling pot and probably benzos or adderall or whatever other bullshit Schedule III/IV drugs their are, 2-3 years ago.

    That is just pathetic.

    Way to go Dick Tracy.
  2. gmeziscool2354
    this is all we can do to save the world...of warcraft.

    anyone here a southpark fan?

    this brings "god damn it, leeroy" to a new level
  3. vantranist
    Its gotta make you think though, doesn't it?

    SWIV plays online games sometimes (Mostly from his teen years) and has even played WOrld of warcraft. He never watches what he says, mainly because swiv thinks they "can't do shit on the internet" and does think something like this is extremely rare. As rare as it is, it happens. And i know swiv speaks for at least half the gamers/chatters out there.

    Whats next.... my god :confused:
  4. old hippie 56
    Apparently, Blizzard and other companies keep very detailed logs for a while.. Makes one wonder who all has access to these logs?
  5. Greenport
    Eh swiM wouldn't be surprised if we all find out one day that the entire internet is being logged and that we're all going to get warrants for every single crime we've ever admitted to or done on it.

    SwiM would imagine that the sentences wouldn't be very high if such an event did happen considering virtually everybody is guilty of 'some' crime and they can't just lock up everyone..but yeah. It would not surprise swiM at all.
  6. junkfuck
    Which is exactly why swim's fellow swimmers are all advised to use SWIM when posting on this forum when discussing illegal activities... Of course if the logic carries any further within the minds of all the many swims, then common sense suggests the use of SWIM should be applied to the discussion of ANY illegal activity posted ANYWHERE on the internet.

    There is obviously a GOOD reason why drugs-forum has such a rule, because shit happens, and although actual busts may be rare, it is safe to assume that there are cops trollin' all over the internet, that they probably spend time on many of the forums people post on (irregardless of topic), and that nobody who incriminates themselves is safe from prosecution ANYWHERE.
  7. El Calico Loco
    I'm most interested in this statement:

    I'm curious what search engine allows one to match IP addresses to physical coordinates. Especially given that IPs are often dynamic, and not tied to a physical location.

  8. NeuroChi
    Was what Blizzard did legal? Are they allowed to hand over personal information if they feel like it?

    It seems as though they didn't have to. And consequently, shouldn't have.
  9. Greenport
    I personally doubt that using swiM provides any kind of immunity in any way shape or form to the law. The fact is that we have freedom of speech, which is protected in at least one country. That being said it's still quite obvious to anybody looking over logs that swiM usually means 'I'.

    If there was ever to be a total crackdown on internet crimes, the use of swiM would probably not make anyone immune to anything. I play along with it cause it's amusing and cause it's the rules :p but I don't expect it to protect me and I think anyone who does expect that is a fool. The thing is that if someone were to throw everyone in jail for crimes done using or admitted to over the internet (or telephone/any kind of communication device for that matter), nearly everybody would be in prison.
  10. coolhandluke
    thats a shitty way to get busted, swim has heard of the u.s. marshals. a notorious dealer, who ripped a lot of people off and was a very bad person (recently deceased), in swims town caught a charge for robbing a elderly person for pain killers. it was a federal rap so the u.s. marshals got involved. they tracked this guy to atlanta, georgia, about 2000 miles away from their town. swim cant imagine why they would waste their time on some small time guy like this, they're must be someone who is more of a threat to society that they could spend their time on, which angers swim. spend your time catching murderers and rapists, not pot and light drugs.
  11. Oxymorphone
    Well, if they received a subpoena, that means they were required to divulge the information doesn't it? My knowledge of legal terms is real shabby I'm sure, but I always thought that meant the recipient of the subpoena has to cooperate lest they risk some crap like obstructing justice.

    My personal opinion on this is probably what most of us SWIMmers think, it's pathetic. This guy was clearly not a threat to the public. He liked his pills, and his weed, and maybe sold to a few people, and sat at home and played video games. This isn't what I pay my taxes for, I'll tell you that. Maybe they should put some of that effort into something useful like solving murders and rapes. Maybe increasing security at schools, enhancing border security. Fixing the fucking street in front of my HOUSE and the highway I have to take to work, or JUST ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE THEY COULD DO WITH THAT TAX MONEY that would make my country less of a joke. I think I've conveyed my point, heh.

    Christ. This world is pretty fuckin twisted. Now SWIM will be paranoid when he plays video games online. Because to be honest, SWIM has a penchant for drug talk. He finds it fun, entertaining, and well, funny. Especially when playing with an anti-drug crowd. It pleases him to no end to ask, in the middle of a Call of Duty match, if anyone there likes opium, or AMT... and people really hate getting their ass kicked by a "druggie". Hehe.

    What a waste.
  12. Oxymorphone
    It's not to protect anyone who has done anything illegal. SWIM does not mean "I" SWIM is an abbreviation for someone who ISN'T the typer. If I say "SWIM" did something, I mean SWIM did it, not me. There is no admission of guilt, as there is no guilt, and therefor there is nothing to protect me from. SWIM can and does mean anyone, in the entire world. It's up to you to guess who, but there is no proof. Law enforcement looks for proof.

    There's none to be had unless someone specific was named. It's purely an assumption that "SWIM" would mean the person actually posting and assumptions don't mean shit.

    Sorry if this was off topic (and for the double post. I felt the need to clear this misconception up)

  13. junkfuck
    Well good luck then with your adventures... Go ahead and assume that SWIM means nothing... To be quite frank with swiy, I believe it does not provide full immunity but SERIOUSLY, what law enforcement agency is going to waste tax money investigating a crime committed by 'SWIM'. Swim knows its obvious who is talking, but seriously, they aren't going to waste their money trying to determine who exactly swim is (they need proper and SPECIFIC evidence) and then they have to waste EVEN MORE MONEY trying to figure out if SWIM actually did what he said he did, who knows... Swim might just be looking to achieve e-stardom by writing highly accurate novels about his drug use, which may or may not have ACTUALLY happened.

    Oh and if you don't believe that... Then swiy must look at it this way...
    In the united states there is a LAW saying: You can say whatever the hell you want.
    And a LAW that says EVERYONE IS INNOCENT until proven guilty. So the cops technically can't come banging on someones door simply because they decided to post evidence of illegal activity on the internet under the name SWIM, that doesn't exactly qualify as a direct admission of guilt.

    So for example: Swim likes to smoke pot every hour of every day.
    The cops can show up at MY door and ask ME only if I will tell them who SWIM is. Ill say no. They will tell me if I don't tell them who SWIM is ill go to jail. I know that is a lie, they can't do it without proof, and anything I say on behalf of swim, for all they know, is a cartoon that appears in MY dreams or just stories from AFOAF. And provided SWIM's activities are 'enough' for a judge to order a search warrant against ME, thats what appeals courts are for DUH, the warrant is invalid simply because the police don't have proof that I may or may not be SWIM.

    And as long as swim doesn't discuss anything CLEARLY worth investigating, the police aren't going to waste taxpayer dollars investigating ME.
    The idea behind this concept is simply, if the police waste 1000 dollars of taxpayer money investigating swim's pot habit, when they bang down MY door, it would look REALLY bad on them if they may or may not find a couple seeds or stems that swim may or may not have dropped.

    The only thing that Swim and I know the police CAN do is detain ME for hours and hours in an attempt to force ME to give up the identity of SWIM... It isn't resting or obstructing an investigation to simply yawn and act non compliant, because IT IS SWIMS RIGHT for ME not to incriminate him, and its AGAINST THE LAW to force ME to incriminate myself for having any association with SWIM. And quite frankly to do such a Q'N'A session would fall in the realm of CRUEL AND UNUSAL. WHICH IS ALSO ILLEGAL.
    And to tell you the truth, I would probably just get sick and tired of swine stench and FINALLY REVEAL that swim is simply a complex geometric hallucination that I had in a dream, and he was simply telling ME to wake up and educate the world about how he feels. The police would not be able to question ME any further, because for all they know I may or may not be actually telling the truth.

    My example...
    Who the hell actually knows SWIM is a chronic POTHEAD... I do, SWIM made it up to make a point, that schizophrenic voice I hear simply told me to make that point. So SWIM actually does provide some extent of protection, because any attempts to investigate MY activities because of what SWIM says falls in the realm of GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT, and violates MY first amendment right to say whatever the hell whatever voices in my dreams, head, cartoons, or whatever friend I may or may not have, tell me... on the internet. CLEARLY ILLEGAL to prosecute ME for whatever I didn't directly admit to.

    Now I might get in trouble because of SWIM if and only if I get caught doing something stupid, and they decide to review SWIMS postings, which just so happen to match what I did or didn't do...

    For the record. I am not swim, nor will I ever be. Suck it.
  14. Dr. Jackal
    SWIM does not know how it works in America, but where SWIM lives a confession is not enough to secure a conviction - actual evidence of the crime is also needed. This helps to prevent, for example, those with mental health issues confessing to crimes that they did not do or could not have done.

    What is said on the internet can be used together with hard evidence or circumstantial evidence to support a case, but something said on the internet it is unlikely to be enough to secure a conviction on its own. In SWIMs country at least.
  15. G-spotter
    Man, You're sooo right!
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