Patricia Dunn, the ousted chairman of Hewlett-Packard, has been charged with identity theft and conspiracy over the spying scandal at the computer manufacturer.
California's attorney general filed criminal charges against her and four others yesterday over the use of false pretences to obtain the phone records of directors, HP staff and journalists.
Ms Dunn was in charge of an investigation to find the source of a string of boardroom leaks, but she has insisted that she did not know the methods that were being used. The other people charged are Kevin Hunsaker, HP's former chief ethics officer, who quit after details of the investigation's methods became public, and three outside private detectives, Ronald DeLia, Joseph DePante and Bryan Wagner.
They are charged with the use of false or fraudulent pretences to obtain confidential information from a public utility; unauthorised access to computer data; identity theft; and conspiracy to commit those crimes
Mr DeLia runs a Boston-area detective firm called Security Outsourcing Solutions, a longtime HP contractor commissioned to conduct the leak inquiry. Mr DeLia in turn hired Mr DePante's company to gather information, and Mr DePante hired Mr Wagner to obtain the private phone records of HP directors and journalists.
Silicon Valley has been captivated by the revelations about the inquiry, whose tactics also included sending an e-mail with a tracking device to a journalist.
Last week, Congress held hearings into the scandal, when Ms Dunn denied knowing that phone records had been obtained improperly.
Wall Street breathed a sigh of relief that there was no indictment last night for Mark Hurd, HP's respected chief executive. He is credited with turning around the performance of the company in the 18 months since his appointment, but he has been dogged by questions over what he knew about the tactics of the leak inquiry. He testified last week that he approved parts of a scam to trap one internet journalist into activating an e-mail tracking device, but said he did not recall reading a report that revealed how people's phone records had been obtained.
Both Mr Hurd and Ms Dunn insisted that it had been right to investigate the source of boardroom leaks, even if the tactics used had been wrong.Reuse content