August 7, 2014 at 11:02 am

FBI seizes work email account of fired Ford engineer

Detroit — The FBI seized the contents of a fired Ford Motor Co. engineer’s work email account, the latest step in an investigation of a worker who hid listening devices in the automaker’s conference rooms.

The seizure was revealed in a search warrant obtained Thursday by The Detroit News. Ford mailed the FBI a digital video disk and an unidentified document Tuesday, according to the search warrant inventory.

The FBI wanted copies of all emails sent and received from fired Ford engineer Sharon Leach’s account, including drafts, address books, contact and buddy lists, calendar data, pictures and files, according to the warrant.

“We continue to work with the FBI on this investigation that we initiated and requested assistance on from the FBI,” Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel said Thursday.

Previously, the FBI has seized one of Leach’s personal email accounts, searched her Wyandotte home and seized eight secret listening devices.

The 43-year-old Wyandotte woman has not been charged with a crime. Her lawyer Marshall Tauber said the mechanical engineer hid listening devices so she could take better meeting notes.

The devices were installed before meetings but could not be easily removed, her lawyer said. The audio devices were left in the conference rooms and unintentionally recorded other meetings, Tauber said.

Leach was fired in June after she admitted using the devices, her lawyer said.

In all, Leach gave Ford security eight Sansa recording devices, her lawyer said. Those are the same devices listed on the FBI's search warrant on July 11, Tauber said.

Krusel says Ford offices were not searched and no devices were found inside the automaker’s world headquarters in Dearborn; the FBI declined to comment about the search warrants or the investigation.

“Recording devices were found in an isolated area of a Ford-owned building,” Krusel said. “Because this is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to provide additional details.”

Court records that would explain the focus of the investigation are sealed in federal court.

The government's lawyer on the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel, heads the National Security Unit in Detroit, successfully prosecuted underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and specializes in cases involving espionage, counter-terrorism and terrorism financing, among others.

rsnell@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2028
https://twitter.com/RobertSnell_DN