Science and Technology News

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Former U.S. Navy Contractor and its President Sentenced for Scheme Related to Transfer of U.S. Navy Submarine Rescue Technology


           WASHINGTON – Former U.S. Navy Contractor, Canada-based OceanWorks International Cooperation (“OceanWorks”) was sentenced on December 2, 2019, for a scheme to falsify facts in a disclosure to the Department of Commerce and the company’s president, Glen Omer Viau, 52, of British Columbia, Canada, was sentenced for unauthorized use of government property.

           U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu, Perrye K. Turner, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Houston, and Douglas R. Hassebrock, Acting Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement, U.S. Department of Commerce made the announcement.

           On September 10, 2019, OceanWorks pled guilty to a one-count information charging it with knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing, and covering up a material fact, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. OceanWorks’ President, Glen Omer Viau, pleaded guilty to conveying, without authority, U.S. Navy technical data to an unauthorized party. The Honorable Coleen Kollar-Kotelly sentenced OceanWorks to a fine of $84,000 and Viau to time served and a $25,000 fine.

           According to the government’s evidence, the OceanWorks scheme, which started in 2016, involved misrepresenting to and concealing from, the Office of Export Enforcement within the Department of Commerce, the true nature and extent of the transfer of U.S. Navy technical data to China. The scheme was performed in connection with a proposal by OceanWorks and an unindicted company based in China (“the Chinese Company”) to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy for the design and construction of remotely-operated submarine rescue vehicles.

           OceanWorks was the prime contractor for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System (“SRDRS”). One component of the SRDRS was the submarine rescue system, a tethered, remotely-operated vehicle that included a Pressurized Rescue Module (“PRM”). The Department of Commerce issued a formal determination that the PRM and its technical data could not be exported to China without a license and were controlled under U.S. regulations.

           In 2016, OceanWorks was sold to the Chinese Company. Viau was hired as President of OceanWorks soon thereafter.

           After Viau was hired as President, from approximately November 2016 to February 2017, OceanWorks sent U.S. Navy technical data, including multi-page technical drawings, on the PRM, a component of the U.S. Navy’s submarine rescue system, to an employee of OceanWorks and the Chinese Company. OceanWorks transferred this data to assist with a proposal to develop a similar submarine rescue vehicle system for the PLA Navy. At least one of the multi-page technical drawings was export-controlled and required a license before being sent to China.

           In 2017, the Canadian Government ordered the divestiture of the OceanWorks acquisition. Following the divesture, in March 2018, OceanWorks filed with the Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement a Voluntary Self Disclosure (“VSD”) identifying export violations that had occurred before Viau became President of OceanWorks. However, in the VSD, OceanWorks omitted that the Chinese Company sought to enter the same industry as the U.S. Navy and that OceanWorks worked on a proposal to design a submarine rescue system for the PLA Navy.

           In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Liu, Special Agent in Charge Turner, and Assistant Secretary Hassebrock acknowledged the work of those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Houston Field Office, Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation. They also praised the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeff Pearlman, Jolie F, Zimmerman, and Thomas Gillice of the District of Columbia, and Trial Attorney David Recker of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, who investigated and prosecuted the case.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Member of Hacker Collective Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges of Making Online Threats to Schools and Possessing Child Pornography


          LOS ANGELES – A North Carolina man pleaded guilty today to federal charges of making bogus threats of shootings and bombings to schools in the United Kingdom and the United States, including numerous schools in Southern California.

          Timothy Dalton Vaughn, 21, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, also admitted making false reports of a plane hijacking and conducting computer attacks, as well as possessing child pornography.

          Vaughn – who used online handles that include “WantedbyFeds” and “Hacker_R_US” – pleaded guilty this afternoon to possession of child pornography, conspiring to make threats and damage a computer, and computer hacking.

          Authorities have linked Vaughn to the Apophis Squad, a worldwide collective of computer hackers and swatters intent on using the Internet to cause chaos. The collective caused disruptions by making threatening phone calls, sending bogus reports of violent school attacks via email, and launching distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on websites. Vaughn and another man were named earlier this year in a grand jury indictment that alleged a series of cyber and swatting attacks in 2018, including threats of bombs and school shootings that were “designed to cause fear of imminent danger and did cause the closure of hundreds of schools on two continents on multiple occasions.”

          Vaughn specifically admitted today that he provided to his co-defendant contact information for at least 86 school districts that received emailed threats of an armed student. The threatened attacks included the imminent detonation of a bomb made with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, bombs placed under school transportation vehicles, and the placement of explosives under school buses and on sports fields, according to Vaughn’s plea agreement.

          In a plea agreement filed in relation to today’s hearing, Vaughn admitted that in early 2018 he demanded 1.5 bitcoin (then worth approximately $20,000) from Hoonigan, a Long Beach motorsport company, to prevent denial-of-service attacks on its website. When the company refused to pay, he launched a DDoS attack that disabled hoonigan.com.

          Vaughn also admitted helping his co-defendant make a false report of a hijacking on a United Airlines plane flying from London to San Francisco.

          In relation to the child pornography count, Vaughn admitted possessing nearly 200 sexually explicit images and videos depicting children, including at least one toddler.

          As a result of his guilty pleas, Vaughn will face a statutory maximum sentence of 35 years in federal prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II on June 8.

          The second defendant named in the indictment – George Duke-Cohan, 20, of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, who used online handles that included “DigitalCrimes” and “7R1D3N7” – is currently serving a prison sentence in Britain for the false report of the hijacking. Duke-Cohan is charged in the indictment with nine counts. If he were to be convicted, Duke-Cohan would face a statutory maximum sentence of 65 years in federal prison.

          An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

          This case is the result of an investigation by the FBI with assistance provided by the United States Secret Service as part of the Electronic Crimes Task Force.

          This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Julia S. Choe of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.

Portland Man Sentenced to 33 Months in Federal Prison for Cyberstalking and Anonymous Telephone Harassment


PORTLAND, Ore.—Bob Ibenne Ugwa, 50, a Portland resident, was sentenced today to 33 months in federal prison and three years’ supervised release for making repeated threatening and harassing telephone calls to seven individuals over an eight-year period.

According to court documents, between 2011 and 2018, Ugwa made thousands of anonymous, interstate telephone calls from Oregon to seven victims located in Pennsylvania. In these calls, Ugwa threatened or harassed each victim by breathing heavily, moaning, and saying sexually explicit things. Ugwa called his victims at all hours of the day and night and used spoofing or voice-over-IP to conceal his identity and make it impossible to block his calls.

Ugwa’s victims, who ranged in age from 19 to 62 years old, had no way of knowing where Ugwa lived or if he posed an immediate danger to their physical safety. The victims included a student, a teacher, and mothers who feared for their children’s safety as well as their own. Each of the victims made multiple unsuccessful attempts to stop Ugwa from calling, citing substantial emotional distress.

Ugwa’s conduct stopped briefly after he was arrested and detained in March 2018 for similar conduct that resulted in his conviction in Washington County Circuit Court. His threatening calls resumed shortly thereafter.

Investigators obtained telephone records that covered approximately two years of Ugwa’s conduct between 2016 and 2018. During this time, Ugwa made nearly 5,000 calls to his victims. These records were used to confirm Ugwa’s criminal conduct.

Ugwa previously pleaded guilty to one count of cyberstalking and six counts of anonymous telecommunications harassment.

This case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Hannah Horsley, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.