CHICAGO, Il. — A federal magistrate in Chicago last November ordered Apple to help federal prosecutors access data on an iPhone in a personal bankruptcy and passport fraud case, one of more than a dozen cases around the country similar to the legal battle over the telephone of one of the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting suspects.
Court records show U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon filed a November 2015 motion saying law enforcement needed Apple's help to bypass the passcode to search, extract and copy data from an iPhone 5S owned by an Indian American couple, Pethinaidu and Parameswari Veluchamy, the Chicago Tribune reported.
An affidavit filed Nov. 13 said text messages, phone contacts and digital photos might help confirm wrongdoing. It also said data on the phone “may also provide relevant insight into the cellphone owner's state of mind as it relates to the offense under investigation.''
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Rowland's order said Apple should provide authorities “reasonable technical assistance to enable law enforcement agents to obtain access to unencrypted data.''
She added Apple “may provide a copy of the encrypted data to law enforcement, but Apple is not required to attempt to decrypt, or otherwise enable law enforcement's attempts to access any encrypted data.''
It wasn't clear if Apple complied with any provisions of the order. Apple declined to comment on the case. And a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago declined comment on the warrant and court order.
Apple is challenging government efforts to overcome encryption on at least 14 electronic devices nationwide in addition to the iPhone in the San Bernardino case, court records show. In San Bernardino a gunman, Syed Farook, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people in a mass shooting.
The Valuchamys owned Mutual Bank, which the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp sued after it failed in July 2009. The lawsuit was settled in December 2015. It claimed the couple paid themselves $10.5 million as the bank struggled.
Court records show the Veluchamys were charged in a complaint with passport fraud last year, the Tribune reported. Court filings indicate they haven't yet been formally indicted; they'd only have to enter a plea when and if the U.S. attorney's office takes that step.
Court documents say the couple owns property and has family connections in India, but it wasn't immediately clear if they carry Indian passports. One document said they have an Overseas Citizen of India card, which allowed them to travel to and stay in India.
An attorney for Pethinaidu Veluchamy, Shelly Kulwin, said his client intends to plead not guilty if eventually indicted. Parameswari Veluchamy's attorney, Jacqueline Jacobson, didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment.