By Charles Forelle and Steve Stecklow
The Massachusetts private investigator connected to Hewlett-Packard /zigman2/quotes/203461582/composite HPQ +1.98% Co.'s probe of directors and journalists has a lengthy history in the private-security industry, but his forays into other ventures have been punctuated by business and financial disputes.
Ronald R. DeLia 's involvement in security dates back at least to the early 1980s, when records show that he was a supervisor with First Security Services Corp., then a large, closely held New England firm, now owned by Swedish security giant Securitas AB /zigman2/quotes/203151739/delayed SE:SECU.B +0.56% .
Mr. DeLia has been identified by people familiar with the matter as one of the investigators who helped H-P conduct a probe of alleged leaks of information to journalists by members of its board. The Palo Alto, Calif., computer company has said some of the leak investigators it hired obtained phone records of journalists and board members, prompting a furor that led H-P Chairman Patricia Dunn to submit her resignation from that post.
Mr. DeLia has been in the security industry sporadically since his days with First Security, working for a string of small companies, culminating with Security Outsourcing Solutions Inc., an active firm whose Web site has listed him as managing director. State records list his wife as president.
Mr. DeLia has ventured out of the industry at least once, to run a restaurant that dissolved in bankruptcy and led to an acrimonious tax dispute. He has dabbled in real-estate investing, on one occasion joining partners in the purchase of a rental property that eventually faced foreclosure.
Mr. DeLia couldn't be reached for comment yesterday. H-P has said at least two firms were involved in the probe -- one a consulting firm that it retained, and the second a subcontractor retained by the consulting firm; that subcontractor made "pretext calls" to access phone records of journalists and H-P directors. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said he is looking at a "complicated chain" of private investigators and contractors in multiple states that may have taken part in the pretexting. It isn't clear what Mr. DeLia's role was, or whether he was involved in any pretexting.
An attorney for Mr. DeLia, John Kiernan of Bonner Kiernan Trebach & Crociata LLP, declined to comment. The Web site of Security Outsourcing Solutions lists a phone number and address that are the same as those for Bonner Kiernan's Boston office. Mr. Kiernan didn't say why Mr. DeLia used his firm as a point of contact. "I'm trying to figure out what's happening," Mr. Kiernan said.
In 1982, Mr. DeLia launched a firm called Commercial & Industrial Security Services Inc. At its height, it had up to ten employees with an office in Boston near the state capitol building. According to Peter Kerr , the firm's former accountant, CISS performed corporate-surveillance work in the Boston area. Its clients included tech concerns and local branches of Fortune 500 companies. Mr. Kerr says the services included planting fake employees who would surreptitiously surveil the work sites of corporate clients suspecting their actual employees of theft or other wrongdoing. CISS also provided surveillance on behalf of spouses who suspected their partners of infidelity, according to a former business associate of Mr. DeLia.
In the early 1990s, Mr. DeLia sold his interest in CISS to another firm but continued to provide consulting services. Around this time, records show he and Mr. Kerr defaulted on a mortgage they held for a rental property in Boston's North End neighborhood, whose value had plummeted during a recession that hit New England especially hard. The bank that held the mortgage foreclosed on the property.
In 1995, Mr. DeLia tried his hand as a restaurateur, launching an upscale billiards hall and restaurant in Boston called the Grill and Cue. A review in the Boston Globe said, "Owner Ron DeLia has done an exceptional job choosing the decor for the restaurant, which is billed as an American bistro. There is an elegant, jazzy feel with walls of varying colors -- teals, coppers, grays -- set off by black chairs, cherry wood, and white table linens."
Mr. DeLia sometimes worked seven days a week, 16 hours a day at the restaurant. Though some reviews praised its pasta, the restaurant didn't succeed financially, and it filed for bankruptcy two years later.
The collapse led Mr. DeLia into a dispute with some of his onetime partners in the venture over who should be responsible for thousands of dollars of unpaid state taxes. According to a report by a Massachusetts tax-appeals board, the partner, who was the restaurant property's landlord and president of the restaurant's corporate entity, demanded that Mr. DeLia make rent payments first, before it paid its taxes. The state-revenue commissioner determined that taxes for certain periods in 1995-96 were Mr. DeLia's responsibility, and in 2004 the appeals board agreed. According to the board, Mr. DeLia owed $58,394.39 in taxes, interest and penalties as of Nov. 21, 2002. It's unclear how the tax matter was finally resolved.
Tuesday, Mr. DeLia's wife, reached at the couple's house in a Boston suburb, referred questions to Mr. DeLia. Telephone calls to the house yesterday weren't returned.
Mr. DeLia also has a home in South Dennis, Mass., on Cape Cod, which until last year he listed as his security company's business address. The 11-year-old, three-bedroom home, with weathered clapboard siding and beach rights to a nearby bay, has been on the market for about a year with an asking price of $399,000, according to a local real-estate agent. A neighbor said Mr. DeLia hadn't been seen there since around the time the property was put up for sale.