Insurer Says She Caught Landlord Red-Handed

     CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CN) – A landlord used computer monitoring equipment to spy on a tenant, compete against her insurance agency and steal money from her accounts, the insurance agent claims in court.
     Lee Ann Pridgeon sued Rick Ryan Pegram and Debra R. Pegram in Federal Court. Pridgeon and her insurance office, co-plaintiff L.I.G. Services, claim Rick Pegram used spyware to snoop on her business and take money from her accounts.
     In the 63-page lawsuit, Pridgeon claims she entered into an asset purchase and lease agreement with Rick Pegram in December 2007.
     Four years later, in November, 2011, Pridgeon says, she received an email from Pegram’s girlfriend, nonparty Leigh Adams.
     In it, Adams told her that Pegram had been using computer monitoring software to view Pridgeon’s business and personal emails since at least February 2009, and Adams attached two electronic images to back up her claim, Pridgeon says in the lawsuit.
     “The first attached image in the November 18, 2011 email is a picture of Ms. Adams using her computer taken by the computer’s webcam application, and the second attached image is an email dated February 12, 2009, by and between plaintiff Pridgeon and the vice president of an insurance company represented by plaintiff,” Pridgeon says in the complaint.
     Pridgeon claims that Adams continued to send her emails suggesting that Pegram and/or his associates had been monitoring her computer and email since at least 2006, using the data “for their own personal gain, retribution against plaintiff, to compete with plaintiffs and for other purposes.”
     In June 2012, “Plaintiff Pridgeon and plaintiff Insurance Agency had several hacking attempts of their Bank of the Carolinas online banking account,” Pridgeon says in the complaint.
     It continues: “As a result of these June 2012 attempted hacks of their online banking accounts, plaintiff Pridgeon and plaintiff Insurance Agency requested and obtained a log of all online bank account access log entries to their Bank of The Carolinas banking account. A copy of this log is attached and incorporated hereto as Exhibit 7.
     “Due to the recently obtained evidence that defendant Rick Pegram and defendant Does unlawfully accessed and used plaintiffs’ computer network, computers, electronic data and other items as alleged herein this complaint, plaintiffs began to investigate whether defendant Rick Pegram and defendant Does were also responsible for hacking into their online banking accounts.
     “Upon information and belief, defendant Rick Pegram and defendant Does are responsible for unauthorized and unlawful access to plaintiffs’ online banking account at the Bank of the Carolinas, and was able to commit such unlawful acts by obtaining plaintiffs’ online banking user name and password from the data defendants’ gathered from their monitoring of plaintiffs’ computer and electronic activities.”
     The complaint then lists 10 occasions on which, Pridgeon says, Pegram et al. illegally got access to her business’s bank account.
     She claims money was withdrawn to pay for trips to New York, New Jersey and Florida, and outings at private golf clubs in Charlotte, N.C. and North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
     The complaint states: “Exhibit 7 shows that there were unauthorized access or attempted hacks to the online banking account of plaintiff Pridgeon and plaintiff Insurance Agency from the IP address locations where defendant Rick Pegram: (1) is/was a member of a private golf course; (2) in New York, New York area at a time when he was visiting this area; (3) in Florida, at a time when he was vacationing at this state; and (4) in the city of South Carolina, where his girlfriend resides.
     “Plaintiff Pridgeon has never been to the State of New York or the New York City area, is not a member of any golf course and has not been at any of the locations on the dates or times that the online banking accounts were unauthorized and unlawfully accessed, or attempted to be accessed, as indicated in these logs.
     “Upon information and belief, after obtaining plaintiffs’ financial and banking information for their unlawful computer monitoring of plaintiffs as alleged herein this complaint, defendant Rick Pegram and defendant Does used plaintiffs’ debit/credit card information on various occasions and made fraudulent purchases via plaintiffs’ credit cards,” the complaint states.
     Pridgeon says she confronted Pegram about these activities through a demand letter delivered to him on Sept. 28, 2012. A week later, she says, Pegram replied by letter, admitting he had monitored the business’s computer activities between September 2006 and sometime in 2008, but that he’d since stopped.
     Pridgeon says based on the evidence from the girlfriend, she knows this to be “a willful and intentional lie.”
     She seeks compensatory, statutory and punitive damages for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Stored Communications Act, the Wire and Electronic Communications Privacy Act, unfair and deceptive trade, copyright infringement and invasion of privacy.
     She is represented by Mark Ishman of Raleigh, N.C.

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