Crime

FBI Agents Raid Home of PBSO Critic for Computer Crimes and Hacking

Mark Dougan is a former Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputy who says he left the department because it was corrupt, and in 2008, he set out to air grievances on a forum he created — the website PBSOTalk.com. On it, Dougan published documents such as the probable-cause affidavit in a lieutenant's pain-pill addiction case, purchase orders showing that the sheriff's office spent more than $60,000 on barbecue grills, and a copy of an internal affairs complaint filed against Sheriff Ric Bradshaw. 

For the past year, Dougan has claimed that the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office has been retaliating against him and others who criticize the department. Now a technology consultant who regularly travels to Russia, Dougan says he made friends with hackers there and sold his website to them in 2013. Last month, it was one of those Russian hacker friends, he claims, who posted about 4,000 confidential records — including the purported home addresses of police officers, lawyers, and judges — on PBSOTalk. 

Dougan maintains he was not involved in any way. But Monday morning, a dozen FBI agents raided Dougan’s Palm Beach County home and served him with a search warrant. Dougan reports that he was slammed to the ground and that more than $10,000 in computer equipment was seized, along with paperwork from his desk. 

"It’s such a violation of privacy, a witch hunt," Dougan tells New Times. "They said they were looking for evidence and wanted information on who did [the hacking and confidential-records dump]."


FBI Public Affairs Specialist James Marshall tells New Times: “The FBI conducted law enforcement activity this morning in the vicinity of the 1100 block of Duncan Circle, Palm Beach Gardens, FL. No further information is available at this time.”

After the hack last month of the Palm Beach County property appraiser's website, a person who posts under the username "Badvolf" on PBSO.org claimed responsibility for the hack. He says he is Russian. 


Dougan says, "I didn't know it was going to happen until it was already done. I told him I didn't want any insider knowledge or to know any of the details."

A few weeks later, Badvolf worked with a reporter at Databreaches.net to expose leaks in the Miami-Dade and Broward clerk of courts databases too. Redacted screenshots were posted on the site to prove that Badvolf's hack was indeed real. According to Databreaches, PBSOTalk.com is registered by Alexey Drobyshev and hosted by Digital Ocean. 

The FBI contacted Dougan and asked to meet with him. Dougan agreed, he says, but only under certain conditions. He says they were scheduled to meet, but on Monday, Dougan was served with a warrant. He says they were at his house for at least three hours. He's annoyed that they seized his computer equipment, since he needs it for work. But Dougan maintains he's not upset. "I think there are a lot of pissed-off people who want to fry anyone who had anything to do with this [hack]," Dougan says. 


Dougan is currently a key witness in a controversial case — the wrongful-death lawsuit against PBSO Officer Michael Custer. In 2012, Custer claimed that 24-year-old Seth Adams reached inside his car for a gun. Custer fatally shot him. Now Seth Adams' family is suing Custer and Bradshaw in his official capacity as head of the sheriff's office.


"They won't go after their own," Dougan says of PBSO. "But they will sure go after people who expose them, that’s for damn sure."
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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson