Local News

Digital files can be retrieved in criminal cases

Posted June 27, 2009 6:15 p.m. EDT
Updated June 27, 2009 7:11 p.m. EDT

— Court papers show the investigation into Duke University employee accused of soliciting an adult to have sex with his adopted 5-year-old child began after a confidential informant claimed to have seen the man molest a young African-American child via online chats on multiple occasions.

According to the affidavit for his arrest, Frank M. Lombard, 42, of 24 Indigo Creek Trail in Durham, invited an undercover officer online to come to Durham to have sex with the 5-year-old boy.

Authorities also say Lombard told that officer that he has seen and may still have videos depicting children under 5 years old engaging in sexual activity, but that he cleans his digital collection every so often for fear of detection.

Digital forensics consultant Larry Daniel, who is not working on this case, said even if files like that are deleted they still can be retrieved.

“Even if you run some kind of evidence erasing tool, it does not clean up the registry. It will not cleanup the link files,” Daniel said. “We can still find information even though you think you’re totally secure.”

Daniel has done private digital consulting work on other sex crimes cases. He said what's stood out to him about Lombard's case is the fact he's accused of using a Web cam to broadcast the molestation.

“That is just horrific beyond belief because you’re watching a crime in process. What’s even more horrific is that people are willing to hook up and watch this crime being committed for sexual gratification – that’s just frightening,” Daniel said.

Lombard faces a federal charge of attempting to induce someone to cross state lines to engage in a sexual offense. He was being held without bond at the Durham County jail Saturday. A conviction would carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.