LOS ANGELES – An Arizona man has been convicted of federal computer intrusion charges for deleting electronic files after hacking into computer systems operated by an Irvine-based company where he used to work.
Nikishna Polequaptewa, 36, of Phoenix, was found guilty Tuesday afternoon by a federal jury. Following a five-day trial, the jury convicted Polequaptewa of one count of unauthorized impairment of a protected computer and causing over $50,000 in loss.
Beginning in April 2014, Polequaptewa worked at Blue Stone Strategy Group, which provided consulting services to Native American tribal governments throughout the United States. In addition to his consulting responsibilities, Polequaptewa led information technology and marketing at Blue Stone.
In November 2014, Polequaptewa was relieved of IT and marketing duties after he began falling behind on work. Following this change in responsibilities, Polequaptewa was assigned to a consulting project in Florida for the Seminole Tribe. While on that project, Polequaptewa deleted Blue Stone’s website and marketing materials that the company had developed over eight years.
Polequaptewa resigned in Florida and continued to delete Blue Stone files, including client information, Blue Stone work product, and the company’s backup files held by a third-party. Polequaptewa’s final deletion was done by sending a “wipe” command to a Blue Stone desktop computer in Irvine.
In court documents, prosecutors described Polequaptewa’s actions as “a coordinated campaign to delete information and data.” Polequaptewa’s deletions cost Blue Stone over $50,000 to assess the damage and respond to the offense.
During the time of the criminal conduct in 2014, Polequaptewa lived in Garden Grove.
As a result the guilty verdict, Polequaptewa faces a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on February 25, 2019 by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney.
The investigation into Polequaptewa was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida and the Irvine Police Department provided assistance.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Vibhav Mittal and Bradley E. Marrett of the Santa Ana Branch Office.