ATLANTA MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO FEDERAL COMPUTER HACKING CHARGES
September 28, 2011
McNeal Hacked Into Computer Database of Competing Medical Practice
ATLANTA, GA - ERIC McNEAL, 37, of Atlanta, Georgia, pleaded guilty today in federal district court to intentionally accessing a protected computer of a competing perinatal medical practice without authorization.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “The citizens of our community should expect that their confidential patient information is just that–confidential, and that it will not be hacked and used for direct-mail marketing purposes. This criminal misuse of sensitive personal information resulted in a federal felony conviction for this defendant, which should serve as a warning for anyone else considering such hacking.”
Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, said, “The FBI is well suited to conduct such cyber-based investigations and is pleased with the role its agents played in bringing this defendant to justice. Mr. McNeal misused both his technical skills and his previously held position of trust within the victim company in accessing patient information.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: McNEAL worked as an Information Technology Specialist for “A.P.A.,” a perinatal medical practice in Atlanta. McNEAL separated from employment with A.P.A. in November 2009, and subsequently joined a competing perinatal medical practice, which was located in the same building as A.P.A. In April 2010, MCNEAL used his home computer to hack into A.P.A.’s patient database without authorization. MCNEAL downloaded the names, telephone numbers, and addresses of A.P.A.’s patients, and then “wiped” A.P.A.’s database, deleting all the patient information from A.P.A.’s system. McNEAL subsequently used the patient names and contact information to facilitate a direct-mail marketing campaign for the benefit of his new employer. There is no evidence that McNEAL downloaded or misused specific patient medical information.
McNEAL was charged in a Criminal Information on September 16, 2011, and pleaded guilty to its count of intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization. McNEAL could receive a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Sentencing is scheduled for December 5, 2011, at 11 a.m., before Senior United States District Judge Willis B. Hunt.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney Steven D. Grimberg and United States Attorney’s Office law student Casey Boome are prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney's Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.