Chester County Man Pleads Guilty to Hacking into Area College Computer Networks
The defendant stole personal financial information in order to file fraudulent tax returns
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Timothy Spillane, 39, of Chester Springs, PA, pleaded guilty before United States District Court Judge Joel Slomsky to accessing a protected computer network without authorization, arising from his intrusions into the digital networks of two suburban Philadelphia-area colleges.
According to court documents, between November 2017 and January 2018, the defendant hacked into approximately 25 school network email accounts at two local colleges belonging to students and staff. After gaining access to these accounts, Spillane obtained the personal identifying information of the account holders and others, including W-2 tax forms and student financial information. The defendant then attempted to submit fraudulent tax returns using the stolen information, but he was unsuccessful because he could not accurately determine the victims’ adjusted gross income from the prior tax year. Spillane further admitted that he set up email, pre-paid phone and bank accounts in these individuals’ names in order to collect the fraudulently obtained tax return money.
“A significant number of Americans handle nearly all of their business online, which means that the information they store digitally can be vulnerable,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “Would-be thieves like this defendant demonstrate how quickly and easily personal information can be compromised. However, this case also demonstrates how quickly our Office and our law enforcement partners will respond; it was only a matter of weeks between the FBI receiving a tip and the day they knocked on the defendant’s door to execute a search warrant, stopping him in his tracks.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sarah M. Wolfe.