A businessman pleaded guilty in San Diego federal court Tuesday to selling spyware and hacking tools to clients who used the equipment to intercept and monitor the communications of political and business rivals.
Julio Santamaria, 49, of Los Angeles, brokered the sales of interception and surveillance tools to several clients, including Mexican politicians and private citizens, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors say he was aware some of his Mexican government clients sought to use the equipment for illegitimate purposes.
On one occasion, Santamaria's co-defendants, Carlos Guerrero and Daniel Moreno, admitted to arranging for an unidentified Mexican mayor to gain access to a political rival's Twitter, Hotmail and iCloud accounts.
Guerrero and Moreno both pleaded guilty last year and were each sentenced to three years of probation.
According to court documents, Santamaria worked for Elite by Carga, part of a consortium of U.S. and Mexican companies owned by Guerrero.
The company "sold services that included interception and unauthorized access of telephones and email accounts, including telephones and email accounts located in the United States," according to Santamaria's charging document.
Santamaria pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal conspiracy count and is slated to be sentenced in May.