Case Studies: Internet Crimes


Technician Successfully Defends Internet Identity Theft Charge

A computer repair technician retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after prosecutors charged him with internet identity theft crime. The charges alleged that our client had pretended to act on behalf of his employer's computer repair service when applying for credit to purchase a computer, audio, video, and gaming equipment. The dispute arose out of the technician's dispute with the repair service's owner, for whom the technician had been ordering equipment on the owner's credit. Although the owner had long approved of that practice, the owner maintained that the technician's recent purchases were unauthorized and for the technician's own use and benefit, not for the owner. When the owner fired our client and notified the vendors that the charges were unauthorized, the vendors complained to authorities, which charged our client with internet crime. Our defense approach was to highlight that this matter arose out of a civil employment dispute, not a criminal scheme on our client's part. Our client had not personally benefited from any of his actions. Our client would either return the ordered equipment, prove that the owner had authorized its purchase and should pay for it, or, if necessary, keep the equipment to start his own repair service. We helped our client explore employment or business mediation with his former employer, which failed other than clarifying that our client was free to start his own repair service. We then helped our client find business resources to develop a business plan for that new service. The prosecutor dismissed the charges as arising out of a civil dispute after our client showed that he was paying for the disputed items on his own in his new business.

College Student Avoids School Discipline and Internet Crime Charges for Unauthorized Computer Access

The parents of a college sophomore at a New Jersey public university retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after school officials threatened to turn our client over to federal or state authorities on criminal charges of unauthorized computer access or "hacking." Our client, a tech-savvy individual in a computer sciences program, had used his considerable skill to hack into the university's administrative system. Our client had not intended to use or disrupt the system in any way. To the contrary, he maintained he was just testing the system's security after having heard school I.T. staff boast of the security of their systems. Our client had intended to document his ability to easily break into the system and share that documentation with the school's I.T. officials, expecting that his actions would both aid the university and increase his reputation within his computer sciences program department. I.T. staff, though, had detected his hacking, which they reported to school disciplinary officials. We notified those officials of our appearance on our client's behalf while requesting an informal conference. At the conference, we helped our client present evidence of his screenshots and the diary of his actions, showing that he had documented each of his actions to turn over to school officials. No criminal hacker would have done so. We further proposed that our client receive remedial education and training in the protocols for computer security officials to follow when they suspect that a system is insecure. Our client had already accepted his need for that training. School officials accepted the proposal, concluding the matter without criminal charges or school discipline.

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