LOS ANGELES – An Arizona man has been sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for breaking federal computer intrusion laws governing the deletion of electronic files after he hacked into computer systems operated by his former employer, an Irvine-based company, and then deleted its website and marketing materials in retaliation for being stripped of some of his job duties.
Nikishna Polequaptewa, 37, of Avondale, Arizona, was sentenced on Monday afternoon by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney, who also ordered him to pay $53,305 in restitution to his former employer.
Polequaptewa, who was a Garden Grove resident during the criminal conduct, was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2016. After a five-day trial in November 2018, a jury found him guilty of one felony count of unauthorized impairment of the integrity and availability of data, programs, systems, and information.
Beginning in April 2014, Polequaptewa worked at Blue Stone Strategy Group, which provided consulting services to Native American tribal governments throughout the United States. In addition to his consulting responsibilities, Polequaptewa led information technology and marketing at Blue Stone.
After he began falling behind on work, Polequaptewa was relieved of IT and marketing duties in November 2014. Polequaptewa then was assigned to a consulting project in Florida for the Seminole Tribe. While on that project and angry that he had been stripped of his other job duties, Polequaptewa retaliated against Blue Stone by deleted the website and marketing materials that the company had developed over eight years. Polequaptewa’s deletions cost Blue Stone more than $50,000 to restore its system to its state before Polequaptewa’s deletions.
After he resigned from the Florida project in November 2014, Polequaptewa continued to delete Blue Stone files, including client information, Blue Stone work product, and the company’s backup files held by a third-party. Polequaptewa’s final deletion was done by sending a “wipe” command to a Blue Stone desktop computer in Irvine. Polequaptewa’s deletions were first detected when an employee in Irvine saw files being deleted from a Google drive account by Polequaptewa while he was working on the Florida project.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida and the Irvine Police Department provided assistance.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Vibhav Mittal and Bradley E. Marrett of the Santa Ana Branch Office.