FBI recovers former Ford engineer’s work e-mail account

The FBI has recovered the work e-mail account of a fired Ford Motor Co. engineer as part of a probe into the discovery of listening devices planted inside the company, a Detroit newspaper reported today.

According to a search warrant obtained by The Detroit News, Ford mailed the FBI a digital video disk and an unidentified document on Tuesday.

The warrant said the agency requested all e-mails sent and received from former engineer Sharon Leach’s work account, as well as drafts, address books, contact and buddy lists, calendar data, pictures and files.

“We have sent additional information requested by the agency,” Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel said in a statement today.

Krusel added in the statement that listening devices were not discovered inside Ford’s world headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., as previously reported, but added listening devices were found “in an isolated area of a Ford-owned building.”

Raj Nair, Ford’s group vice president for global product development, said today listening devices were found at Ford’s research and innovation center in Dearborn.

He declined further comment during an appearance at the Michigan Science Center in Detroit today.

The FBI searched the automaker’s offices on July 11 and obtained eight Sansa listening devices, according to search warrants filed in federal court.

Leach’s Wyandotte, Mich., home was searched on July 20, and four laptop computers and a desktop computer, three USB drives, financial records, some documents from Leach’s employer and a T-Mobile Google telephone were seized, court records show.

According to search warrants, the FBI also seized Leach’s Gmail account, including all e-mails, drafts, photos, phone numbers, contacts and bank accounts.

Records detailing the reason for and focus of the investigation are sealed in federal court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel, head of the National Security Unit in Detroit, is representing the federal government in the case. Tukel specializes in national security and white collar crime, and was on the prosecution for Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, also called the underwear bomber, who attempted to blow up a Northwest plane en route to Detroit from Amsterdam in 2009.

Leach’s attorney, Marshall Tauber, told the News in July that his client was fired in June after she admitted to Ford that she had been using the listening devices. He said she was using them to help transcribe meetings she participated in.

“They’re not going to find much,” Tauber said today of the most recent seizure.

“My client is being cooperative with the authorities and the FBI and will continue to do so,” he added. “She did not intentionally commit any crimes.”

Bradford Wernle and Reuters contributed to this report.

You can reach Katie Burke at kburke@crain.com -- Follow Katie on Twitter: @KatieGBurke

Tags: Ford

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