An Arlington, Tennessee man was sentenced today to 18 months in prison and two years of supervised release for intentionally accessing a competing engineering firm’s computer network without authorization in order to obtain proprietary information. Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence J. Laurenzi of the Western District of Tennessee made the announcement.
Jason Needham, 45, co-owner of HNA Engineering, was sentenced before U.S. District Judge John T. Fowlkes Jr. of the Western District of Tennessee for intentionally accessing without authorization the computer networks of his former employer, Allen & Hoshall. In addition to his prison term, Needham was ordered to pay $172,393.71 in restitution to Allen & Hoshall.
“The Criminal Division is committed to ensuring that American businesses are protected from unauthorized access to their systems and information, and our ability to execute this mission is dependent on building a trusting relationship with private industry,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. “Allen & Hoshall’s robust cooperation and partnership with our prosecutors and agents in this case resulted in a successful outcome and ensured that Mr. Needham was held accountable for his criminal activity.”
“This case shows that law enforcement officials throughout the Western District of Tennessee will work together to ensure that individuals participating in any criminal act will be brought to justice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Laurenzi. “It is imperative that our business and corporate community remain protected from cybercrimes and other illegal security threats. The corporate community is a vital part of growth and development for any city. The professionals in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Tennessee, will continue our mission to ensure the safety and security of our businesses and corporations in our district. Security crimes will not be tolerated in this district. We will come after you.”
A spokesperson for Allen & Hoshall stated, “We believe that computer crimes are serious and that pursuing and prosecuting violators in an ethical and responsible manner are important aspects of maintaining the safety and security of private, confidential information for everyone. We are grateful that the government conducted such a prosecution in this case. We believe the Court’s sentence will send a clear message to Mr. Needham and the greater business community that cybercrimes, electronic snooping and otherwise accessing electronic information without authorization are real crimes that are unacceptable under the law and are subject to severe penalties.”
According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, Needham admitted to repeatedly accessing, over a nearly two-year period, Allen & Hoshall’s servers to download digitally rendered engineering schematics and more than 100 PDF documents containing project proposals and budgetary documents. Needham also admitted to accessing, on hundreds of occasions, the email account of a former colleague at Allen & Hoshall, which provided Needham access to the firm’s marketing plans, project proposals, company fee structures and the rotating account credentials for the company’s internal document-sharing system. According to the plea, Needham used his unauthorized access to view, download and copy proprietary business information worth over $500,000.
The FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra L. Ireland of the Western District of Tennessee and Senior Counsel Timothy C. Flowers of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division prosecuted the case.