Robert Kerneck associated with stars – and earned millions as a spy | Technical News

For those who knew him, Robert Kerbeck was an actor with roles on the hit series ER and Melrose Place and had worked with the likes of James Gandolfini, Paul Newman and George Clooney.

But for nearly two decades, Robert lived a second life as a spy, making millions of dollars lying, cheating, and stealing confidential information from some of America’s largest corporations.

Drawing on his acting training, he used accents, mimicked corporate giants, and manipulated innocent workers to pass on vital intellectual property that he sold to competitors.

“I called and said, ‘This is Gerhard, he’s calling from the Frankfurt office.’ “We have European Union regulators here and we need some information from the states,” Robert says on the phone from Malibu, California a strong, persuasive and slightly jovial German accent.

“What are people taught in the corporate world?” Be a good teammate. That’s why they want to help you. No one thinks you are faking or that you are a trained actor impersonating a real person. I was able to get people to give me passwords and new product information, what they charged their customers, what they paid their employees, who the top people in their companies were, and who their rock stars in the organization were – and all that information was like that valuable.

“Imagine being able to learn the names of people on the design team in the early days of the iPad. How much money would that have been worth?’

A lot is the answer. In 2011, Apple filed a lawsuit against Samsung for patent infringement related to the iPhone and iPad product design. Apple claimed Samsung mimicked the appearance of its devices and was awarded just over $1 billion in damages.

Robert Kerbeck

Robert earned millions alongside his acting work – playing the role of a convict on a show Sister with George Clooney (Image: Dave Teel)

Trade secrets are big business. Robert, who was making $8 an hour in the early 1990s when he started the work that enabled him to survive as an actor, later made up to $2 million a year.

His story, reminiscent of Rob Moore-turned-corporate-spy-turned-double-agent, is the focus of Tortoise Media’s latest podcast, Into the Dirt.

Like Robert, Rob had a career in the media, but as work dried up he began collecting corporate intelligence.

Industrial espionage is a major headache worldwide. According to cyber security specialist Gatewatcher, espionage is the fifth biggest concern for businesses in European markets.

Robert, who is a good judge of human nature and says he can read the silence on the phone, would invent a variety of tricks to glean valuable information. He learned the accents of industry giants in television interviews and mimicked them on the phone so the staff, full of surprise, told him anything he wanted to know. He also formed relationships with employees, calling them numerous times over the years, either pretending to know family members or scaring his target by claiming he was from headquarters.

System security specialist working in system control center. The room is full of screens displaying various information.

Industrial espionage can be a headache for big companies (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

“The word corporate compliance instills fear in employees,” explains Rob. “They’re like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve got the head of compliance on the phone. Did I do something wrong? I’m in trouble.” So you immediately put someone on the defensive. “People are scared, but when they hear there’s a business emergency they need help with, they relax.”

If they were inattentive, they would openly share information.

According to Robert Kerbeck, it was like taking candy from a baby. “Nine out of ten people believe they would never disclose sensitive private information.” And I’ll tell you, nine out of ten people give it up,” he tells

“Corporate espionage is an extremely competitive and brutal industry. We always had to think fast. Part of acting is that you have to have strong improvisational skills. And we did a lot of research before making a sneaky call. We studied the company, read their annual reports, read their press releases and searched the entire website. “My lies sounded better than the truth.”

Robert worked as a spy for about twenty years and only told his wife how he really made his money.

Sometime in the late 1990s, he was being hunted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Communications Commission, and “every other three-letter agency in the United States.” A lawyer told him that if a company wanted to prosecute him, he would “get in a lot of trouble,” and Robert often had to talk his way out of trouble, change names, switch phone numbers, and go into hiding.

Corporate espionage is not illegal in the UK, according to private investigator Jack Charman, “as long as the methods used to gather information are legal and there is good reason,” he explains.

Jack Charman

Jack Charman explains that industrial espionage is not illegal this side of the Atlantic (Image: Included)

“The term “corporate espionage” indicates that the information gathered under this guise is used solely for commercial gain. This does not constitute a valid legal ground for collecting information and therefore does not constitute a valid ground for conducting an investigation. It can be quite a gray area. I know it actually happens in the financial industry – short selling is a good example of that.”

Robert worked as an actor and was able to hide from all publicity. In 1994 he was hired to work with OJ Simpson on an exercise video.

“I was a big OJ fan. I grew up watching him play football. One day I visited the video that was filmed in a dance studio. I’m the worst dancer ever and everyone does the dance even OJ and I’m just pathetic. I am so bad. The choreographer was about to fire me, but OJ says, “No. Rob dances so badly it makes me look good. Rob is staying.” And in a weird way that bonded us and the rest of the three day shoot, OJ was my best friend.”

OJ promised Robert a role on his next show, but just days later he saw the historic police chase on television involving OJ in the white bronco.

Robert and OJ

Robert worked on an exercise video with OJ Simpson (Image: Included)

“I was just overwhelmed.” “My jaw dropped,” he recalls. “I literally slid off the couch and was on the floor. I could not believe it.’ OJ was acquitted of double murder in 1995 but jailed in 2008 on armed robbery and conspiracy to kidnap. Since then he has been released.

Robert started his own company in the late 1990s and trained other spies to work for him. Did he feel bad? Yes – but he rationalized it.

“Part of me said I only annoyed big corporations and financial institutions,” he explains. “It doesn’t take much research or education to know that many of these institutions have been convicted of many types of financial crimes, abuse of office and consumer fraud.” It’s fairly easy to argue that financial institution greed caused the 2008 financial crisis. I told myself that I would only steal trade secrets from one company and sell them to another; It’s just part of the capitalist system. But there were also people I was dealing with that I was taking advantage of that didn’t feel good.”

In the end, it wasn’t the FBI that brought Robert’s operation to its knees; It was his eight-year-old daughter who confronted him after overhearing him on the phone pretending to be someone else.

“She said, ‘Are you a hacker?’ And I said, ‘Oh no. I’m just getting information from one company and passing it on to another as part of capitalism.” And she said, “But it’s dishonest.” “That’s when I realized I was going out of business had to,” he says.

Robert, pictured here with Pierce Brosnan, later became an author

Robert, pictured here with Pierce Brosnan, later became an author (Image: Gardia Fox)

Robert later became an author and finally freed from the shackles of secrecy, he revealed it all in his titled memoir Trick: Lying the American Dream from Hollywood to Wall Street – However, this unexpectedly served as an advertisement for its shady services.

“I can’t tell you how many executives have contacted me after reading the exposé.

‘They told me; “We loved your book. We’d like to hire you as a spy for us.” I had to tell them I was out of business. But also; I’ve come out! I wouldn’t be a very good spy if I came out. But the corporations don’t care.

“They just want the information and they’re willing to pay big bucks for me or someone else to learn all sorts of things about their competitors.”

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Justin Scaccy

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