June 24, 2010 - MINNEAPOLIS—A 45-year-old Blaine, Minnesota man has been indicted in federal court in the District of Minnesota for hacking into his neighbor’s wireless Internet system and allegedly posing as the neighbor to make threats to kill the vice president of the United States and e-mail child pornography. The indictment, which was filed today, charges Barry Vincent Ardolf with two counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of making threats to the president and successors to the presidency, one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer, one count of possession of child pornography, and one count of distribution of child pornography.
The indictment alleges that in February 2009, Ardolf hacked into his neighbor’s wireless Internet connection and created multiple Yahoo.com e-mail accounts in that person’s name. Then, on May 6, 2009, he allegedly used one of those accounts to e-mail the office of the vice president of the United States. In that e-mail, he stated:
This is a terrorist threat! Take this seriously. I hate the way you people are spending money you don’t have.... I’m assigning myself to be judge jury and executioner. Since you folks have spent what you don’t have it’s time to pay the ultimate price. Time for new officials after you all are put to death by us....
The e-mail, which also was sent to the governor and a U.S. senator from Minnesota, went on to threaten to kill the officials one at a time, with the first being dead by June 1. Ardolf allegedly signed the e-mail with the name of the neighbor from whom he stole Internet access as well as the name of that person’s wife. The indictment alleges that Ardolf sent the e-mail using the wireless router belonging to the neighbor, intending for the e-mail to be traced back to that person.
In addition to sending the threatening e-mail described above, the indictment alleges that in February 2009, Ardolf posed as the identity-theft victim and used the e-mail accounts he created in the victim’s name to send sexually themed e-mails to three of the victim’s co-workers. Again, the defendant sent the e-mails through the victim’s wireless Internet connection, intending for them to be traced to the victim’s Internet account. In one of the e-mails, Ardolf attached an image containing child pornography. Ardolf also allegedly created a MySpace page in the victim’s name, on which he posted the same image of child pornography.
If convicted, Ardolf faces a potential maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the distribution of child pornography charge, 10 years on the pornography possession charge, five years on both the unauthorized access to a computer and the threats to the vice president, and a mandatory two-year minimum prison sentence on each count of aggravated identity theft. All sentences will be determined by a federal district court judge.
An indictment is a determination by a grand jury that there is probable cause to believe that offenses have been committed by a defendant. A defendant, of course, is presumed innocent until he or she pleads guilty or is proven guilty at trial.
This case is the result of an investigation by the Minnesota Cyber Crimes Task Force, which is sponsored by the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, with assistance from the Blaine Police Department and the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Rank.