BOSTON – A Somerville man, who was charged yesterday for his role in orchestrating a disruptive computer attack on a local hospital’s network, was arrested in Miami this morning after having fled Massachusetts and being found in a small boat off the coast of Cuba. The man and his wife made a distress call, after their boat ran into trouble. A nearby Disney Cruise Ship responded to the distress call and rescued the couple.
Martin Gottesfeld, 31, had been aware of a federal investigation since October 2014, when the FBI searched his home in relation to a computer attack on the hospital network. Last week, the Somerville Police Department conducted a wellness check at the Gottesfeld’s apartment after receiving calls from his employer and from relatives concerned about his whereabouts. It is alleged that Mr. Gottesfeld had not been to work, nor had he or his wife had any contact with family members in several weeks. The police found no one home at his apartment.
On Tuesday, February 16th, the FBI in Boston was notified by their counterparts in the Bahamas that Gottesfeld and his wife were not registered guests on the ship, but rather had been picked up by the cruise ship near Cuba, following a distress call. Mr. Gottesfeld was arrested when the cruise ship returned to its Miami port this morning.
Gottesfeld was charged in a criminal complaint unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Boston with one count of conspiracy. According to the affidavit, the computer attack, which disrupted the hospital’s network for approximately a week, was launched in the name of hacking group Anonymous in an effort to affect the hospital’s handling of a teenage patient (“Patient A”), who was the subject of a high-profile custody battle between her parents and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
According to the complaint affidavit, the attack on the Massachusetts hospital was one of two attacks that Gottesfeld and others orchestrated.
On March 23, 2014, Gottesfeld allegedly posted a YouTube video calling, in the name of Anonymous, for action against the local hospital in response to its treatment of Patient A. The video, which was narrated by a computer-generated voice, stated that Anonymous “will punish all those held accountable and will not relent until [Patient A] is free.” The YouTube video directed viewers to a posting on the website pastebin.com that contained the information about the hospital’s server necessary to initiate an attack against that server.
It is further alleged that on April 19, 2014, the conspirators initiated an attack against the hospital server identified in the pastebin.com posting. That attack directed hostile traffic at the hospital’s network for at least seven days, disrupted that network, and took the hospital’s website out of service. The attack also disrupted the hospital’s day-to-day operations, as well as the research being done at the hospital.
The hospital had to re-allocate its resources in a significant way to ensure that patient care was not affected during this period. In an effort to ensure the attack did not compromise patient information, the hospital decided to shut down the portions of its network that communicated with the Internet and its e-mail servers. This effort successfully prevented the attackers from accessing any patient records or other internal hospital information. Responding to, and mitigating, the damage from this attack cost the hospital more than $300,000.
The charge of conspiracy provides for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 and restitution. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Harold Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Boston Field Division made the announcement today. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Adam Bookbinder and David D’Addio of Ortiz’s Cybercrime Unit.
The details contained in the criminal complaint affidavit are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.