By JEFF MARTIN
Sep. 26, 2016 1:33 PM EDT
Daniel Eugene Traeger allegedly sold customer phone records in Alabama
Federal prosecutors said he sold information to a private investigator
Traeger was also accused of selling the data for more than four years
Daniel Eugene Traeger, 51, who worked as a technician for the company, allegedly used Verizon's computers to obtain customers' private call records.
Shortly after the charges were filed last week, Traeger pleaded guilty to a felony count of unauthorized access to a protected computer as part of a plea deal, court records show. His lawyer didn't immediately return a phone message Monday.
Traeger logged into one Verizon computer system to gain access to customers' call records, authorities said. He used another company system known as Real Time Tool to "ping" cellphones on Verizon's network to get locations of the devices, according to the plea agreement.
He then compiled the data in spreadsheets, which he sent to the private investigator for years, the court records show.
"Between April 2009 and January 2014, the defendant was paid more than $10,000 in exchange for his provision of confidential customer information and cellular location data to the PI, an unauthorized third party," court records state.
Though Traeger was based in the Birmingham area, the court records do not indicate whether the information that was sold involved Verizon Wireless customers in Alabama or elsewhere.
He faces up to five years in prison, but prosecutors are recommending a lesser sentence since he accepted responsibility, according to terms of the plea agreement.
The broader issue of protecting personal information — from cellphone records to the recent breach of Yahoo.com user accounts — has become a vexing problem for the U.S. in recent years, said Marc Rotenberg, president of the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C.
"It's one of the most important, least understood issues in the current election year," Rotenberg said Monday.