WSJ Profiles Con Man Behind the Sting That Cost Google $500 Million


The Wall Street Journal tells the story of David Whitaker, a federal prisoner and convicted con artist, who during four months in 2009 was the lead actor in a government sting targeting Google Inc. that yielded one of the largest business forfeitures in U.S. history. Whitaker posed as an agent for online drug dealers in dozens of recorded phone calls and email exchanges with Google sales executives, spending $200,000 in government money for ads selling narcotics, steroids and other controlled substances.

“There was a part of me that felt bad,” Mr. Whitaker wrote in his account of the undercover operation viewed by The Wall Street Journal. “I had grown to like these people.” But, he said, “I took ease in knowing they…knew it was wrong.” The government built its criminal case against Google using money, aliases and fake companies—tactics often used against drug cartels and other crime syndicates. Google agreed to pay a $500 million forfeiture last summer in a settlement to avoid prosecution for aiding illegal online pharmaceutical sales. Google acknowledged in the settlement that it had improperly and knowingly assisted online pharmacy advertisers allegedly based in Canada.

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