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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of West Virginia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Enervest Computer Attack Draws Four-year Federal Sentence

Former Charleston network engineer intentionally mounted devastating attack on employer’s computer system

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – United States Attorney Booth Goodwin announced today that a former network engineer at Charleston-based EnerVest Operating, LLC (“EnerVest”), was sentenced to four years in federal prison for intentionally causing severe damage to his employer’s computer system.  Ricky Joe Mitchell, 35, of Charleston, West Virginia, admitted that in June 2012, shortly after he learned he was going to be fired, he remotely accessed EnerVest’s computer system and reset the company’s network servers to factory settings, essentially eliminating access to all of the company’s data and applications for its eastern United States operations. Before his access to EnerVest’s offices could be terminated, Mitchell entered the offices after business hours, disconnected critical pieces of computer-network equipment, and disabled the equipment’s cooling system. As a result of Mitchell’s destructive acts, EnerVest was unable to fully communicate or conduct business operations for approximately 30 days. The company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attempting to recover historical data from its network servers, and some of its data were lost forever.

“Imagine having your company’s computer network knocked out for a month,” said U.S. Attorney Goodwin. “In this day and age, that kind of attack is devastating. And this defendant didn’t just hurt EnerVest. He hurt his former co-workers, he hurt EnerVest’s customers, and, ultimately, he hurt consumers. The only good news here is that he didn’t get away with it.”  

EnerVest manages oil and gas exploration and production operations for its parent company, EnerVest Ltd.—a major national oil and gas holding company—and for various affiliates of EnerVest Ltd.

In addition to his four-year prison sentence, Mitchell was ordered to pay $428,000 in restitution to EnerVest, plus a $100,000 fine. United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr., imposed today’s sentence.

The United States Secret Service conducted the investigation. United States Attorney Goodwin and Assistant United States Attorney Thomas C. Ryan handled the prosecution.  

The case was prosecuted under U.S. Attorney Goodwin’s Business Protection Initiative, which fights fraud and other crimes against West Virginia businesses.

Updated January 7, 2015