Port Townsend firm helps ID Boston bombing suspect
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Intellicheck Mobilisa CEO Nelson Ludlow said he's gratified his company's software was used by Phantom Fireworks to pin down Tamerlan Tsarnaev's identity.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — From 3,000 miles away, a Port Townsend company's technology assisted in identifying the suspects in the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Intellicheck Mobilisa, Inc.'s IDCheck FastForm technology helped authorities confirm that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, of Cambridge, Mass. — the older of the two Chechen-born brothers identified as suspects in the April 15 bombings — purchased mortar kits from a New Hampshire fireworks store in February.

Pressure-cooker devices

Authorities believe that explosives from those kits became part of two homemade pressure-cooker devices that were allegedly placed near the finish line of the foot race by Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, also of Cambridge, Mass., which killed three onlookers and injured 282 others, according to investigators.

“It didn't prevent this tragedy, but our software allowed them [Phantom Fireworks] to get the information to the FBI,” said Nelson Ludlow, chief executive officer of Intellicheck Mobilisa.

In February, the elder Tsarnaev made a $200 cash purchase from a Phantom Fireworks store in Seabrook, N.H., records showed.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev's driver's license was scanned into Mobilisa's computer system using the company's software as part of the store's point-of-sale technology.

After authorities released the suspects' identity, Phantom Fireworks checked its records and found Tsarnaev's name seconds later, said Michael Koocher, Phantom's chief information officer.

“[IDCheck FastForm] software is incorporated into our Front End Customer Capture process, and has helped speed up — and make more accurate — our customer [information] capture rate,” Ludlow quoted Koocher as saying.

“Traditionally, the emphasis was on capturing for marketing purposes, but in this case, it certainly had an added benefit,” Koocher reportedly added.

Ludlow said the bombing case is not the first time the system has resulted in providing information in an investigation.

In the past, Ludlow said, the company's systems have been instrumental in nabbing a child rapist and several other criminals.

But the Boston bombing case, he said, is the highest-profile one involving his company.

“Even though experts believe the amount of gunpowder in the mortar kits that Tamerlan purchased — about 1 pounds — would not be enough to detonate the Boston bombs alone, some of that powder may have been used,” Ludlow said.

“In any case, this ID scan has provided law- enforcement officials with an extra piece of evidence in building a narrative of Tsarnaev's actions in the months leading up to the Boston bombing.”

In December 2009, Intellicheck Mobilisa contracted with B.J. Alan Co. owner of Phantom Fireworks, to integrate the retail version of IDCheck FastForm into all 54 Phantom Fireworks stores nationwide.

Mobilisa's technology automates retail sales and streamlines the gathering of customer data.

The company, in concert with the Washington State Patrol, is preparing to release a new application in May that will allow bars and pubs to scan a driver's license or state identification into an iPhone, Ludlow said.

The scan will confirm the validity of the ID and that the patron is of legal drinking age.

“They won't need any special equipment,” Ludlow said.

Ludlow said the company's former management is still part of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of trading and security practices.

The SEC action was announced last December, soon after the departure of former Mobilisa CEO Steve Williams in November.

“No current employees or board members are part of the investigation,” Ludlow said, and the investigation does not have any effect on day to day operations of the company, he added.

Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 28. 2013 6:23PM
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