City of Winnipeg manager in charge of police radios arrested after 2-year investigation

UPDATE: In October 2020, Manitoba prosecutors told CBC News that they do not plan to lay charges in this matter.

Winnipeg police have arrested a city manager for allegedly updating police radios with fraudulent software he obtained from a person deemed a security threat by the US Department of Homeland Security, CBC News has learned.

In 2011, Ed Richardson allegedly obtained millions of dollars worth of illegal software and instructed city employees to use it, police said in a January 2018 affidavit filed in Manitoba Provincial Court when officials they wanted permission to search the man’s emails.

Until his arrest last Thursday, Richardson was manager of the City of Winnipeg Radio Shop, responsible for the repair and maintenance of radios used by the Winnipeg Police Service and the Winnipeg Fire Medical Service.

The allegations stem from when the police department used fully encrypted Motorola radios, which allowed officers to talk secretly because the only way to unlock the audio and listen to the conversations was with an encryption key. (Prior to 2010, anyone who wanted to eavesdrop on police calls could potentially do so through websites that provided access to police scanners.)

The Winnipeg Police Service began using fully encrypted Motorola radios for communication in 2010, allowing officers to speak in secret because the radios require an encryption key to unlock the audio. (Motorola Solutions)

In the affidavit, police said the Motorola radios need frequent updating, which can only be done if the city purchases a “refresh key,” or license, from the company to unlock the proprietary software. Motorola charged about $94 for a radio update, the document said, and an employee at a radio store told police Richardson didn’t like that.

“[The employee] does not believe that his actions were for personal gain; he believes Richardson likes the idea of ​​not giving Motorola any more money,” the affidavit said.

The employee came forward in 2017. At the time, WPS and WFPS were in the process of rolling out a new emergency radio system for first responders, a project led by Richardson.

“[The employee] is concerned that Richardson’s lack of integrity could jeopardize the security of this new radio system,” the affidavit said.

Winnipeg police confiscated a USB reader and a device called an iButton, pictured left, from a City of Winnipeg radio store in April 2017 as part of the investigation. (Provincial Court of Manitoba)

According to the affidavit, the employee told police that in 2011, Richardson gave him a device known as an iButton that came pre-installed with more than 65,000 refresh keys and told him “you don’t want to know where they are coming’.

The employee said they “clearly” did not come from Motorola, the court document said.

If the fraudulent refresh keys had been legally purchased, it would have cost the city millions, police say. It is estimated that the keys were used over 200 times and cost Motorola nearly $19,000 in lost revenue.

US Homeland Security is investigating

In the affidavit, police said they suspect Richardson obtained unauthorized software from a Winnipeg radio amateur who is under investigation south of the border.

In September 2016, a special agent from the U. To see also : Snapshot: carriage of goods by sea in United Kingdom.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) traveled to Winnipeg to brief local law enforcement on an investigation into the Winnipeg man’s activities, the court document said.

The agent said the man reprogrammed Motorola radios for customers around the world and was capable of encrypting them.

“This allows the criminal element to communicate without fear of interception by the government or law enforcement,” court documents state. “A significant number of these encrypted radios have been seized by Mexican drug cartel members.”

Motorola examined some of those seized radios and believes the techniques used to “hack” them are consistent with the method used by the Winnipeg man, the affidavit said.

“There is a Chinese method to achieve the same result, but it is quite different,” the document said.

The Winnipeg man was detained by DHS agents in May 2016 while returning to Canada from a radio convention in Dayton, Ohio, the affidavit said. Agents seized his electronics, including a laptop and tools needed to encrypt Motorola radios.

They also seized the iButton. “There is no legitimate way to do this [the man] can own this device and [it] should be delivered to him vilely.”

Police said in the affidavit they believe Richardson gave the man the iButton.

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Richardson has been honored for his work

In the spring of 2017, WPS and WFPS switched from Motorola radios to Harris equipment, a project led by Richardson that took four years to complete. On the same subject : Africa: The Road Ahead for Africa – Fighting the Pandemic and Dealing With Debt.

While the city boasted an award Richardson won for the project, he was investigated by the police.

Ed Richardson was awarded the Technologist of the Year Award in December 2018 by the Public Safety Communications Officers Association of Canada. He won recognition for his work on a project to upgrade emergency radio systems for first responders – all the while being the subject of a two-year police investigation. (City of Winnipeg)

“Ed has been instrumental in providing leadership to our project team,” Glenn Kotick, the city’s senior manager of business technology services. said in a Dec. 12, 2018, statement announcing the award.

Twelve months earlier, Kotick had been served with a court order to provide the police with Richardson’s emails, which were stored on the city’s servers. (Cotick was not under investigation; his job was to make sure the city complied with court orders.)

When CBC News contacted Richardson earlier this month, he said he was surprised to learn he had been under investigation for more than two years. No one from the Winnipeg Police Service ever questioned him about any allegations, he said.

Richardson declined an interview request, citing concerns it could compromise the case, but said he would contact officers to see if he could talk. Richardson also said he was aware that police had at one point investigated the radio enthusiast, whom he knew from the wider radio community, but said he was not sure if that investigation was still ongoing.

Days later, Richardson was placed on administrative leave. According to his colleague, employees were told not to contact him, but were not given a reason why.

A city spokesman would not comment on Richardson’s leave, saying “it’s a human resources matter.”

When CBC News contacted the city again after Richardson’s arrest, a spokesperson declined to answer questions, saying it was a “human resources and police matter.”

A Winnipeg police spokesman said the investigation is now complete and Richardson is expected to be formally charged during a court appearance next month, when he will face a number of criminal code offences, including fraud over $5,000, unauthorized use of a computer , possession of a device to receive unauthorized use of a computer and possession of a device to receive telecommunications service.

There are no claims that the rogue software compromised the security of police radios.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

No other arrests are expected, police said.

City of Winnipeg manager in charge of police radios arrested after 2-year investigation

Winnipeg police have arrested a city manager for allegedly updating police radios with fraudulent software he obtained from a person deemed a security threat by the US Department of Homeland Security, CBC News has learned.

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