REDWOOD CITY (KPIX 5) — FBI agents are accused of planting concealed microphones to record conversations on the steps just outside the San Mateo County Courthouse, court documents revealed Tuesday.

The agents were investigating five Bay Area real estate investors accused of bid rigging, and fraud.

Documents revealed that the agents concealed microphones in places such as a planter box, a metal sprinkler box, and even on nearby vehicles, recording more than 200 hours of conversations in a place, “where judges, lawyers, and other citizens regularly engage in confidential and sometimes privileged communications.”

The defense says the government didn’t get a court order for those recordings, and argue the move constituted an unreasonable search and seizure under the fourth amendment.

Prosecutors admitted the devices were turned on more than an hour before the real estate auctions, which are held on the steps of the courthouse, but the defense says those conversations should have been private.

“Speaking in a public place does not mean that the individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy,” the court filing reads.

Prosecutors say they had every right to use the devices, and got the green light to do so from the FBI, and Department of Justice attorneys.

 

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