Maryland landlord used tiny cameras to sexually spy on tenants

On March 4, a landlord will go on trial in Montgomery County District Court, Maryland, over charges he secretly recording three female tenants while they were nude or engaged in sexual acts with their boyfriends. The accused: Dennis Alan Van Dusen, 63, a lawyer with graduate degrees from Harvard. Small, hide-able spycams are cheap, and getting cheaper, with some models available for under $50 on Amazon and in hobby stores. Another man is due to go on trial in May for a similar crime, using the $499 Recluse Black Box.


  1. Chevy Chase landlord used tiny cameras to peep on tenants, police say

    When all those stories came out about his behavior on the set of Community came out, I defended him. Sometimes artists can be difficult, you know? But this is going too far.

    BUT SERIOUSLY FOLKS, they caught this guy completely at random, not because he was careless or the technology malfunctioned or his victims were l33t haxx0rz who noticed extra electrons leaking from the smoke detector he hid the camera in. It makes you wonder how many people aren’t getting caught. 99%? 99.9%?

    1. Really! When I read this I realize someone could be doing this to me and there is almost no way I would ever find out. (There are technologies for finding optics in a room but I’m not aware of anything commercially available. And as far as searching goes, I can’t find stuff I brought into my apartment myself, let alone something someone is trying to hide from me.)

      Depending on how and whether you what to broadcast and record, these things have been cheap for a while. Finding them on Amazon is news to me: several years ago I used mini cameras in a laboratory experiment (to monitor difficult-to-see parts of the apparatus) and I had to purchase them from an incredibly sketchy/dodgy company. 

        1. But this solution is too labor-intensive. Movie theaters have technology to catch audience members video-recording, so why not consumerize that and put it in one’s cellphone? Cold war arms race redux, with consumer electronics.

          1.  “Movie theaters have technology to catch audience members video-recording,”
            Does such a thing really exist in a practical form?

            Googgling returns very few references and one patent for something that would be very complex and expensive, involving sensors, a computer system to analyze plus a database of “emission signatures” and then some generating device(s) to produce signals to mess up autofocus (easily defeated) or make the camera see white light

            Only one item of someone being arrested for it and that was back in 2003.  Less than a handul if I broaden the search terms but boy howdy you get a lot of folks taping their neighbors/tenants with hidden cameras.

          2. Sure, most camcorders use an infrared light beam for autofocus.  Just take any old CCD image sensor (digital camera, webcam), remove the infrared filter from it (many pro shops will do this for people interested in  boob, err.., infrared nature photography) and look back at your audience while the movie is playing.  Camcorders will be bright lights shining out from the audience.

        2. This is basically an improvised implementation of the not-commercially-available technique I was alluding to. It should work pretty well, and extremely cheaply, IF you have reason to believe you believe you are being watched (which I don’t in my own apartment) and have a good idea where the watching is coming from (it would be very hard to scan an entire room with no parts left out).

      1. Yeah. I actually knew a lady who this happened to. She was the girlfriend of a then mutual friend. To him, it was funny “I’m a porn star now!” but not so much to her.

        At the same time, it strikes me as funny to imagine some one filming me in here. Unless you have a serious toilet fetish, this is one very boring apartment.

        It actually really is creepy though when you think about how easy it is to do. Assuming you don’t leave the thing there for too long, you could probably get away with it indefinitely.

  2. When I pee, I always give it an extra jiggle when I’m done in case someone is watching. As I man, my privacy would feel invaded but I wouldn’t feel violated. I think this is a much bigger issue when perpetrated with the goal of seeing women. IDK why but if some creep wants to look at my tackle I’m kinda mehhhh about it, whereas the thought of them spying on my sis/mother/gf makes me feel quite differently. 

    1. This is a pretty common attitude for men – at least until it happens to them. But I hope you at least realize that how you feel about it in particular shouldn’t affect the legal response when it happens to others in general.

      There was a politician here in Norway who got caught filming men (at least one of them underage) with a hidden camera in his bathroom. I don’t think such things should be judged any more leniently.

  3. NICE. Recluse Black Box comes recommended with Recluse Tissue Box. Handy.

  4. Renting is the absolute worst, and I’ve met very few landlords/landladies that weren’t major douchebags.  I think rental income should be taxed at a higher rate than regular employment.

    1. To be fair, me and my fellow renters (exceptions given in places where there are ONLY renters) aren’t particularly classy or respectable either. The whole business is a problem. There’s high enough demand for housing that landlords have little motivation to follow the law, let alone provide a nice experience. And tenants have no reason to respect the property, or do anything beyond the minimum that will keep them from being evicted — which given how pro-tenant the law is, isn’t much. There’s more to it than that. Maybe it’s the pressure in the US to buy property. Because the people left in the rental game (landlords and renters alike) have much more serious social dysfunctions than just ‘not having enough money to buy.’

      1. Meh… I’m renting again. I live in a big complex managed by some generic seeming corporate management company. I think it varies. Having seen it from the other side, it sucks to rent out property too. You try to be understanding and some one destroys your property, costs you thousands, runs a scam to avoid paying electricity, and regularly underpays the rent. This is enough to make the kindest soul bitter. 

        Now that I’m renting for myself, I just kind of miss feeling the stability of place. But I don’t know where I will be in a year at all, and I’m just not the kind of person who feels comfortable buying anything when feeling so personally insecure.

        I kind of loathe the stigma on renting though (OMG you certainly must have shit credit and you can’t possibly deserve a lower insurance premium).

        As for dysfunctional, doesn’t it make more sense to lose 15k on one year of shelter with no further obligations, than to gamble on the housing market for small spaces, deal with loans, have every expense in your bank account scrutinized, and then have to do it all again in a year?

        Or is dreading that kind of administrative noise while also working and moving regularly a sign of social dysfunction?

        Some times renting is just your best option. Also works well if you want to get your kid into a better school district than you can afford to buy space in.

        1. I rent too, because I don’t see myself being here that much longer, and choose to live closer to work than I could otherwise afford to. It definitely can be the best option. But I still don’t know why it has to suck so much.

    2.  “I think rental income should be taxed at a higher rate than regular employment.”

      Yeah, THAT’s going to help drive down the high cost of rent!

  5. “…tiny cameras to sexually spy on tenants”Did no-one else think about a James Bond-type in a speedo?Sexually spying sounds provocative.

  6. I used to think that the sort of stealth surveillance technology in Ira Levin’s novel Sliver was about as plausible as, say, conceiving a baby with the Devil or cloning Hitler. Then those obnoxious pop-under ads from X10 started showing up on the web, and a “spy” store opened up near where I lived, and I started looking into miniature cameras, and holy crap, it was a real eye-opener.  I’ve come to accept that if someone really wants pics of me naked, for whatever reason, they can probably get them sooner or later, unless I go ultra-paranoid and regularly sweep my apartment.

  7. I guess I’ve learned to stop worrying and just love the bomb. Now, when I masturbate I make sure my hair looks good as well.

    1.  that’s why all those porn sites use Flash – it has webcam access.  Many people believe you when you say that they’ve managed to bypass the little red ‘recording’ light on the webcam so it never comes on.  “If you’re not paying you’re the product”, right? :D

  8. I feel like there’s at least three Law & Order: SVU episodes about this, depending on whether or not you count the toilet-cam episode.

  9. Demand for smaller image sensors in cellphones, tablets, etc. has really driven down the size of halfway-usable hardware.(The one below is downright chunky, definitely not going to get into a modern smartphone while being that thick)

    At least, for the moment, the size of the supporting electronics(battery, mass storage, processor for standalone units, suspicious-looking-cables for closed-circuit installs) is still keeping the things from being wholly unstoppable surveillance nanites.

    1. Unless of course you can disguise it as virtually anything you might find in a household, like a smoke detector.  The added bonus there is that you can use the house power and maybe even run a data cable so the whole thing runs without any user intervention at all. 

      For bathroom installs you could always install it inside of the bathroom fan.  This works best if you’re a landlord like this guy, since about the only chance you have of getting caught is when the fan breaks and they call a guy to fix it.  When that guy is you there is little chance of getting caught. 

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