Lawmaker acknowledges his firm sold cell phone records
DENVER ” State Rep. Jim Welker has acknowledged his telecommunications company sold personal cell-phone records but stopped the practice after congressional investigators interviewed him.
Welker, a Loveland Republican, told the Rocky Mountain News in Wednesday’s editions that the practice was legal but he stopped it because “it’s not worth the controversy if somebody feels it’s not the right thing to do.”
He said his company sold records only to law enforcement agencies and “legitimate” companies such as debt collectors, finance companies and licensed private investigators, and not to the public.
“I look at it as helping the good guys find the bad people,” he said.
The telephone records controversy is the second to ensnare Welker this year. He has also been criticized for forwarding an e-mail that said some black victims of Hurricane Katrina were lazy, and he announced last weekend he would heed the urging of other Republicans and not seek re-election.
The U.S. House Committee on Energy sent Welker a letter last week asking for information from his company, Universal Communications Co. of Loveland. The committee is investigating Internet data brokers.
Committee spokesman Larry Neal said Welker is cooperating. Neal said the committee’s next step hasn’t been determined.
Welker had said last week his company, founded in 1991, provided toll-free numbers to marketers and did not sell information.
The News reported that old company Web sites, lawsuits and a deposition by a customer indicated the company had sold detailed phone records for at least a couple of years.
Universal’s Web site is now accessible only to customers with an account number. A company that stores old Web sites shows that as recently as last year Universal promoted services such as “Trap Line” and “Tel-Scan” that provided detailed phone calling records, the newspaper reported.
“You catch ’em coming and going with this enhancement to our traditional trap line service,” one pitch said.
A deposition in a lawsuit filed by the Texas attorney general linked Universal to Worldwide Investigations of Frederick, accused of selling private phone records over the Internet.
John Strange of Worldwide Investigations, the target of the lawsuit, said in the deposition that he bought cell phone records from Welker’s company and others.
Welker said he had never heard of Strange or Worldwide Investigations, although Universal sued Worldwide in Larimer County last year over about $3,000 in allegedly unpaid services.
Strange did not return a phone call seeking comment.
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