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How An Amateur Rap Crew Stole Surveillance Tech That Tracks Almost Every American


On a June day last year, a skinny, dreadlocked 29-year-old rapper known as Tony Da Boss lay in bed in a redbrick apartment on a tree-lined street in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was not the kind of place you’d associate with a million-dollar criminal conspiracy. But Da Boss (real name Damonte Withers) was a leader of the FreeBandz Gang, an amateur hip-hop crew of twentysomethings who were into much more nefarious activities than laying down tracks.

There were warning signs that things were going to get real. Alerts on Da Boss’ iPhone warned that his Google Nest surveillance cameras with views into and outside the apartment had picked up movement. Outside, a full cast of law enforcement personnel from the Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the local police department were primed to swoop in.


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