Man Sentenced To Federal Prison For Stealing Trade Secrets And Online Extortion Of Pensacola Company
PENSACOLA, FLORIDA – Timothy J. Smith, 43, of Mobile, Alabama, was sentenced to 18 months’
imprisonment late Wednesday afternoon in the United States District Court in Pensacola on charges
of theft of trade secrets and interstate extortionate communications. Lawrence Keefe, United States
Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, announced the sentencing today.
During the trial, a jury received evidence that Smith was a software engineer in Mobile, Alabama.
StrikeLines, the victim in the case, is a Pensacola based company that uses commercial side scan
sonar equipment to locate fishing reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and sells the coordinates using an
interactive map on their website. StrikeLines also provides public coordinates for free to those
interested in finding valuable spots to fish in the Gulf.
The evidence showed that between April and November 2018, Smith obtained private information valued
at hundreds of thousands of dollars from the local company by using sophisticated cyber techniques
in order to gain the trade secrets and decrypt information of the company from its website. After
hearing how Smith stole private sonar coordinates of reefs, the jury received testimony and
exhibits showing how Smith then tried to extort the two owners of StrikeLines for more valuable
information. During this entire time, the victims did not know Smith’s identity or why he was
trying to harm them. Federal and state law enforcement were able to trace all the criminal acts
back to Smith in Mobile where he committed the cyber theft against the Pensacola company.
At sentencing, United States District Judge M. Casey Rodgers announced that she thought Smith’s
acts were based upon “spite” and “arrogance.” In addition to his term of imprisonment, Judge
Rodgers sentenced Smith to a one-year term of supervision once released from custody. Smith was
also ordered to forfeit all the electronic devices he utilized to commit his crimes.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office takes very seriously cyber crimes of all kinds, ranging from protecting
our national security to the secrets of private companies,” said U.S. Attorney Keefe. “In our
increasingly online society, cyber security is vital to all of us as we conduct Internet
transactions and conversations so that we can be confident our identities and personal
information are protected. Our office is pleased that the jury held the defendant to account for
victimizing a small local business.”
“This is the first time we’ve investigated a case like this and it most likely won’t be the last,”
said FDLE Pensacola Special Agent in Charge Jack Massey. “I applaud our FDLE agents and the
U.S. Attorney’s Office for always working to stay at the forefront of technology and one step ahead
of the bad guys.”
This case resulted from an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney
David L. Goldberg prosecuted the case.
"Trade secrets are the cornerstone of American innovation and a driver of the nation's economy,"
said Rachel L. Rojas, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division. "When a corporation
invests in developing new products and processes, the theft of those developments is a clear threat
to that company's future. The FBI will continue to work vigorously alongside our partners at FDLE
and the U.S. Attorney's Office to combat intellectual property theft and bring those responsible to
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that
serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. To access
public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of
Florida website. For more information about the United States Attorney’s Office, Northern
District of Florida, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/fln/index.html.