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Google tracking data used to tie Wisconsin man to U.S. Capitol breach

Photos from criminal complaint charging Abram Markofski in connection with the assault on the...
Photos from criminal complaint charging Abram Markofski in connection with the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.(Dept. of Justice)
Published: May. 3, 2021 at 1:11 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A La Crosse Co. man who is charged with entering the U.S. Capitol when it was breached on January 6 was tracked down after Google handed over records showing a mobile device linked to him showed he was inside the building that day.

The suspect, identified as Abram Markofski, is one of two men recently charged by federal prosecutors in connection with the assault on the Capitol building while electoral votes were being counted. A Dane Co. resident, Brandon Nelson, was also arrested in the incident. Both men were due to appear in a U.S. District courtroom in Madison on Monday.

According to the criminal complaint detailing the arrest of both Markofski and Nelson, federal agents served Google with a search warrant and were able to determine a mobile device they connected to Markofski had been at the Capitol on the day of the breach.

Investigators reported tying Markofski to the device by taking the email address associated with it and matching that with a phone number linked to the suspect.

Google’s records showed the device had been “in areas that are at least partially within the U.S. Capitol Building between approximately 2:15 p.m. and 3:41 p.m.” and in portions of the Capitol Grounds that were restricted that day, according to the complaint.

Prosecutors added the device also placed them in areas consistent with the locations where Markofski and Nelson had been photographed, which were also taken within the same timeframe.

Photos from criminal complaint allegedly showing Brandon Nelson (left) and Abram Markofski...
Photos from criminal complaint allegedly showing Brandon Nelson (left) and Abram Markofski inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.(Dept. of Justice)

The complaint explained that Google determines device location by using GPS data and information about nearby Wi-Fi access points and Bluetooth beacons. That gives the search giant a “maps display radius” which it claims is accurate to within 10 meters of the actual location. However, it adds that Google claims that radius reflects the actual location of the device just over two-thirds of the time.

The other suspect in the case, Nelson, was located after federal agents received a tip that he had been involved from one of Nelson’s acquaintances, according to the complaint. It noted that both men allegedly acknowledged having gone inside the Capitol after it was breached.

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