FBI probes story theft allegations at US weekly

The American FBI has been called in to investigate allegations of
"story stealing" from the computers of US, the weekly supermarket
tabloid. The target of the enquiry is allegedly a former US employee
who left the magazine last year to start a freelance photo agency in
Los Angeles.

The staff of US has told the FBI that they started
getting suspicious a few months ago when they noticed several of their
gossip items about celebrities – which they thought they had
exclusively – began showing up in other publications. Then they
discovered that one of the celebrities being interviewed by a US
reporter already knew about an e-mail exchange between the reporter and
one of the magazine's editors – suggesting someone was eavesdropping on
the magazine's computer system.

According to the Los Angeles
Times FBI agents have searched the home and office of Jill Ishkanian,
who left the magazine last year to start an agency called Sunset Photos
and News. Her lawyer told the LAT that after Ishkanian left US she
continued to work for the tabloid as a freelance and the management had
approved of her having access to the computer system. Lots of people,
the lawyer added, had the password to the system.

The lawyer
suggested that editors at US were upset because their former employee
has scooped the magazine on several stories since leaving the magazine,
including the romantic travails of Charlie Sheen and his estranged wife
Denise Richards and similar stories about rock star Richie Sambora and
his estranged wife Heather Locklear.

Officially, US magazine has declined to comment on the investigation.

spokeswoman for the FBI confirmed the agency had searched Ishkanian's
home and office but as the investigation continues – and the search
warrants are still under seal – the agency could provide no further
details. A computer that had been seized by the FBI has since, it's
said, been returned.


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