US Report: Fugitive hacker surfaces on the Web

It appears Justin Petersen, the hacker and FBI informant turned fugitive, has surfaced on the Web.

Late yesterday, a Web site purporting to belong to the former hacker posted a statement in which Petersen implied that he was currently outside the United States -- and doubted that he would testify at the upcoming trial of imprisoned hacker Kevin Mitnick.

The U.S. District Court in Los Angeles issued an arrest warrant for Petersen -- on parole for hacking a financial institution and electronically stealing $150,000 (£91,400) -- on Sept. 30. Since then, according to reports, U.S. Marshalls have scoured Petersen's former Hollywood haunts. Petersen worked as a FBI informant between 1991 and 1993 and allegedly gathered evidence against several hackers, including Mitnick and ZDTV columnist Kevin Poulsen.

Two ZDTV reporters, Poulsen and Luke Reiter, e-mailed and phoned Petersen Wednesday. Late Thursday, an anonymous associate of Petersen left voice mail directions to Petersen's new Web site.

According to a statement posted on that site, Petersen's "fugitive status is mostly a non-story ... I had a personality conflict with my Parole Office and could not come to terms." In the statement, Petersen, who must pay restitution to the victims of his crimes, also referred to his financial troubles and unemployed status. "Being severely in debt due to the cost of attorneys and having all my assets taken by the government, it's been tough getting ... back on my feet," the statement said.

"I have paid off many of my debts, however, I still owe a great deal to the government. "Finding work with a criminal record is no easy task, being handicapped (Petersen has a prosthetic leg) doesn't help either. When a great job opportunity overseas came up, I decided to take it."

Petersen has been expected to appear as a witness in the Mitnick trial, which is slated to commence in early 1999. "In my opinion it would not be in either sides best interest (prosecution and defence) to have me on the stand," the statement said. "What I have to say will not be flattering. So, to answer that question, I doubt I will be present at the trial one way or another."

According to the statement, Petersen is not concerned about being apprehended, but has considered turning himself in. "Frankly, I find this whole situation rather amusing," the statement said. "Everyone seems so interested in what the hell I'm up to. Alas, rest assure I am somewhere having fun with a nice looking lady, enjoying the first freedom I have felt in some time."

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