News and Press Releases

CEO Directed Programmer, Stymied FBI Investigation

April 29, 2008

Minecode, LLC, a computer programming and web design company and its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to four misdemeanor counts of Computer Intrusion. Company President and CEO PRADYUMNA SAMAL, was sentenced to 90 days of home confinement with electronic monitoring, 288 hours of community service and three years of probation. MINECODE was sentenced to three years of probation, a $144,000 fine and will pay at least $120,000 in restitution to the victim company. Next month U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler will conduct a hearing to determine whether the restitution amount should be higher. Earlier this week Project Manager Sandeep Verma was sentenced to one year of probation and 40 hours of community service. At the sentencing for SAMAL, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler said she seriously considered sending SAMAL to prison, saying, “I see this as very serious, not just bad judgement, or impulsive.... what you did is absolutely antithetical to how we resolve disputes.”

According to records filed in the case, in the summer of 2006, an e-commerce wine supplier Vinado, Inc. hired Minecode, LLC to design some features for its website including a “virtual gift shop.” In the fall of 2006, a contract dispute developed between the two companies. In December 2006, at the direction of President and CEO SAMAL, the Project Manager VERMA went into the Vinado website and disabled the “virtual gift shop” function by removing two programs. This resulted in a loss to Vinado of more than $5,000. Vinado was able to restore the programs a few days later. On January 30, 2007, CEO SAMAL caused commands to be transmitted to Vinado’s website that resulted in the deletion of Vinado’s website, e-mail server and database in its entirety. The damage to Vinado was at least $115,000. The company was forced out of business.

In victim statements filed with the court, Vinado’s owners reveal they lost their home following the business disaster. Partner Seth Micarelli wrote to the court, “This crime devastated and destroyed our company and all of the participants. An online store holding thousands of customer records simply cannot survive its complete destruction and the violation of those customer records. We did what we could afterwards to salvage it, but this act was a fatal blow to Vinado.”

Assistant United States Attorney Jim Lord told the court that after the computer intrusion, on multiple occasions, SAMAL lied to the FBI, and instructed his employee Verma, to lie to the FBI as well, about what had occurred. Mr. Lord noted in his sentencing memo SAMAL’s “lies to the FBI shows that he had a guilty conscience and that he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he did it nonetheless.”

The case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney James M. Lord.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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