BUSINESS

Nabbed: IT Guy Who Spied On Executives’ Emails And Profited $300,000

The former Expedia employee skimmed corporate emails to get juicy stock info

BUSINESS
Dec 06, 2016 at 12:57 PM ET

It’s a tale of insider trading and cyber espionage featuring the most devious of characters—the IT guy.

On Monday, the Justice Department announced that former Expedia employee Jonathan Ly, 28, pled guilty to a single count of securities fraud in a U.S. District Court in Seattle, WA. Under the plea deal with federal prosecutors, he admitted that he  used his position as a senior computer support technician working for the Seattle-based travel company to game the stock market.

“The irony of our increasingly digital world is that the greatest threat to our networks is a human one,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes in a statement. “In this case, an IT professional used his employer’s networks to facilitate a get-rich-quick scheme.

The aptly-named Ly’s amazingly simple, if shortsighted, scheme went like this. Starting in 2013, Ly began accessing emails sent through the devices of Expedia executives while working in the San Francisco office of Hotwire.com, the discount-oriented branch of the Expedia brand. Using information he skimmed, he made profitable trades off the company stock. And once he left, he held onto an Expedia laptop that let him continue reading emails and confidential files. Along the way, he even attempted to cover his tracks by making it look like other employees were sifting through sensitive info.

By scheme’s end, he had racked just over $300,000 in profits, all of which will be taken back by the Securities and Exchange Commission. As part of the plea deal, he’ll also have to pay back the $81,000 that his former company spent to uncover his treachery.

“This case was particularly egregious because Mr. Ly abused his special access privileges as an IT administrator,” said Jay S. Tabb, Jr. the FBI special agent who spearheaded the federal investigation. “On top of violating the trust of the public and his company, he violated the privacy of fellow employees by surreptitiously accessing their files.” Ly’s sentencing is scheduled for next February 28.