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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Minnesota

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 18, 2018

New Mexico Man Sentenced To 15 Years In Prison For Directing Computer Attacks Against Websites Of Dozens Of Victims And For Firearms Charges

A New Mexico man was sentenced yesterday in St. Paul, Minnesota, for directing computer attacks against the websites of his prior employers, business competitors, law enforcement, and the Minnesota State Courts system, as well as for felon-in-possession of a firearm charges. Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division; United States Attorney Gregory G. Brooker of the District of Minnesota; and Special Agent in Charge Jill Sanborn of the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Minneapolis Field Office made the announcement.

JOHN KELSEY GAMMELL was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison by District Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright of the District of Minnesota. GAMMELL pleaded guilty on January 17, 2018, to one count of conspiracy to cause intentional damage to a protected computer and two counts of being a felon-in-possession of a firearm.

“Gammell’s attacks on the websites of his victims had real consequences to small businesses, educational institutions, government entities, and others - for no reason other than that Gammell wanted to cause them harm,” said Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Rank. “Gammell used his technical knowledge and the internet’s cloak of anonymity to commit his crimes, all while knowing the damage he was causing and believing he would never be caught. Because of the FBI’s excellent investigation, he was wrong, and today's sentence sends a strong message of deterrence to others who consider committing similar crimes.”

According to admissions made in connection with his plea, from at least in or about July 2015 through in or about March 2017, GAMMELL engaged in a campaign of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on websites throughout the United States. A DDoS attack is a malicious attempt to disable or interrupt service to a computer or website, usually by causing large amounts of Internet traffic to be directed to the computer or website. GAMMELL directed DDoS attacks at a number of victims’ websites, including websites operated by companies for which he worked previously, companies that declined to hire him, competitors of his business, and websites for law enforcement agencies and courts, among others.

GAMMELL admitted that he caused DDoS attacks by using computer programs on his own computers, as well as by directing “DDoS-for-hire” companies, from which he purchased services, to launch the DDoS attacks. He initiated attacks using these DDoS-for-hire companies against dozens of victims, including but not limited to Washburn Computer Group, the Minnesota State Courts, Dakota County Technical College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Hennepin County, and others. GAMMELL took a variety of steps to avoid detection and circumvent his victims’ DDoS attack mitigation efforts, such as using IP address anonymization services to mask his identity and location, using cryptocurrency in payment for DDoS-for-hire services, using multiple DDoS-for-hire services simultaneously to amplify his attacks, using spoofed emails to conceal his conduct, and using encryption and drive-cleaning tools to conceal digital evidence of his conduct on his computers.

GAMMELL, who is a convicted felon, also admitted that while living and working a temporary job in Colorado, he possessed parts for use in the building of AR-15 assault rifles, including upper and lower receivers, a pistol grip, a trigger guard, 15 high-capacity magazines, a buttstock, a buffer tube, as well as 420 rounds of 5.56 x 45mm full metal jacket rifle ammunition. He further admitted that he possessed a Heckler & Koch P2000 handgun; a Springfield Armory model 1911-A1, .45 caliber handgun; as well as hundreds of rounds of ammunition in New Mexico, where he had his permanent residence.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Rank of the District of Minnesota and Trial Attorney Aaron R. Cooper of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section prosecuted the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the District of Colorado and the District of New Mexico also provided substantial assistance in this matter.

 

Defendant Information:

JOHN KELSEY GAMMELL, 55

Las Cruces, N.M.

Convicted:

  • Conspiracy to commit intentional damage to a protected computer, 1 count
  • Felon in possession of a firearm, 2 counts

Sentenced:

  • 180 months in prison
  • Five years of supervised release
  • Restitution amount will be determined at a later date

 

 

 

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United States Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota: (612) 664-5600

Topic(s): 
Cyber Crime
Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Component(s): 
Updated June 8, 2018