January 6: On the Track of the Missing Laptops

In recent days there have been developments in the investigation into two laptops stolen on January 6. First, a woman in Homer, Alaska claims the FBI seized her own devices, based off a suspicion that she is the woman who currently has Nancy Pelosi’s laptop.

Marilyn and Paul Hueper, owners of the Homer Inn and Spa, told Alaska’s News Source that agents broke through their door early Wednesday morning with guns drawn, handcuffed the couple and two guests, and started searching the premises.

“They basically took me out of the handcuffs and said something like, ‘So you probably know why we’re here.’ I was like, ‘no, probably not.’” Marilyn Hueper said Friday. “And they said, ‘well, we’re looking for Nancy Pelosi’s laptop and we know you were in the building and you were in the room at the time.’”

The FBI isn’t saying much about what they know about the search.

“I can confirm that, on April 28, the FBI was conducting court authorized law enforcement activity at the location you are referring to. At this time, and until it reaches the public realm, we can’t discuss the details,” Chloe Martin, Public Affairs Officer for the Alaska Field office of the FBI, told Alaska’s News Source via email Friday.

The Huepers’ name does not come up in a search of online court records for the U.S. District of Alaska.

The couple declined to provide a copy of the search warrant the FBI had, but said it permitted agents to search for items stolen from the Capitol.

Agents seized cell phones, laptops and a copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the Huepers said.

“We never got within 100 yards of the main doors of the Capitol,” Paul Hueper said.

Her arguments that she’s not the person in the BOLO the FBI showed her are pretty convincing.

That said, she and her spouse claimed they were on the other side of the Mall on the day of the riot, even though they posted to Facebook from closer to the Capitol. I hope we learn how it’s possible that they have two GeoFences from the Capitol but could make a mistake like this.

Meanwhile, discovery correspondence filed yesterday in the case of Long Island CPA Justin McAuliffe suggests he may know something about what happened to Jeff Merkley’s laptop, which was also stolen during the riot.

Merkley did a video showing the damage done to his office after the insurrection, describing the laptop taken from his table and the broken hinges on the unlocked door.

And if you look closely in the arrest affidavit for McAuliffe, you can see the maps that appear in Merkley’s video, as well as the flag left behind.

But the discovery correspondence yesterday included a picture of the stolen laptop and the broken door among other items.

To be clear: McAuliffe has not been charged with theft or damage at all. He remains charged under his original complaint with just trespassing.

But rather than indicting him for any role in those crimes, the government continued his case until May 19, which either means he’s planning on pleading or the government believes that he (like Riley June Williams, who is accused of stealing Pelosi’s laptop) may know more about who took the laptop and what they did with it.

Or maybe the government is just waiting on DNA tests from that joint described in evidence picture, “joint.jpg,” before charging this case?

9 replies
  1. Silly but True says:

    If the Huepers whereabouts remained fully legal, then heads need to roll, and better protections need to be put into place on use of geolocated evidence.

    If the technology is insufficient to discern between legal and illegal positioning, then its use needs to stop until that deficiency gets corrected, rather than ramped up to harass Americans who clearly were not the BOLO person of interest for the investigated crime.

    Basic policing would have resolved this: a simple knock and interview would have saved everyone some trouble.

      • Silly but True says:

        That may well be true but “Ms. Hueper” is clearly not the BOLO target of interest whose probable cause of criminal activity was used to beat their door down.

        This makes me a bit skeptical of how the government has heavy handedly dealt with them. I’m interested in what more turns up with them but aren’t holding my breath at this time.

        • sneakynordic says:

          We don’t know what the probable cause for this search was yet. The Huepers say they were threatened with obstruction if they didn’t cooperate, but there’s nothing in the public record about the FBI actually preparing to arrest one/both Huepers for trespassing, etc. Could this be an instance where the FBI obtained a search warrant purely for evidence on the Huepers’ phones/computers?

    • Raven Eye says:

      Have the investigating agencies conducted geofence ground-truthing of the areas of interest? Something conducted by RF engineers?

      Years ago my activity used RF modeling software in mountainous areas and it produced some pretty maps. But those maps didn’t provide us with the “answer” — they only told us where to put boots on the ground to look for the answer.

      • Silly but True says:

        I question whether civilian commercial geofencing capabilities of Google and Facebook are sufficiently accurate to serve in such a capacity.

        As an example, there are frequent errors with Google’s location AI of something as fundamental as Google Photo automatic geo-locations based on phone location.

        • emptywheel says:

          Given how frequently it has been used, we may get clarity about this. To be sure, their public claims, which themselves conflict, were first that they were on the other side of the Mall, and then that they were never within 100 m of the building, though there are pictures of them that close to it. The stated error rate on Google’s geofence is 100m.

      • JohnJ says:

        Many moons ago (70’s) my dad was an RF Engineer working for the FCC but somehow had a White House security clearance. The little bit I know was that there were several extremely expensive rooms scattered around the White House and the capitol building. According to his friends that came to dinner, (better sources than my dad, he barely talked about anything), those places were manned 24/7 and most sensors spent 3/4 of their in calibration so they used a bunch (that last part was a technical idea I have used ever since). I found from a separate source that they had polarized radar on the grounds that pin points every person’s position. This was up and running in the 70’s. The commercial industry didn’t invent it until 10 years later.

        I am sure the 3 letter agencies still have tech that is 6-10 years ahead of commercial. That is policy.

        Main problem is any tech is classified, so the information always has to be laundered and may even not be shared. The agencies that own the tech are not normally all that open to letting a court examine stuff for accuracy they won’t admit exists.

        • Silly but True says:

          This exactly and unfortunately brings to mind DoJ (FBI) dropping hundreds of the FBI’s Operation Playpen pedophilia & child porn prosecutions because the Comey FBI did not wish to divulge its classified “network deployed tool” which identified every uploader& downloader during the several weeks the FBI operated Playpen, the world’s largest child porn website.

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