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Man hires 'court hacker' on Craigslist ... who turned out to be a cop

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Bah!

A brilliant plan with just one minor flaw. It was complete balls.

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Re: Bah!

And it would have worked if it hadn't been for that pesky kids, er, cops!

I blame Hollywood for creating unrealistic expectations about computer hackers.

However, I also can't rule out ancestors who did early experiments in recursion.

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Re: Bah!

He should have tried a different plan.

Like investing more effort in drumming up some public support for himself, schmoozing a few celebs, and running off to hide in a sympathetic embassy until the cops decide to give up and leave him alone.

Stranger things have happened.

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Re: Bah!

No need even for that, he could set up a gofundme account, and post a picture of 'himself' as a 30 something female model in swimwear.

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What a strange legal system the American people have. This man appears to have been charged with crimes he didn't commit based on the fact that he wanted someone else to commit them.

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Same as if he hired a hitman to kill someone. Pretty sure the law is universal on these kind of things.

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That's not the crime he was charged with though. He was charged with doing the hacking (according to the article), which he clearly didn't do. I don't disagree that it's a crime to get someone else to commit the crime, but it's not the same crime

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Model Penal Code

Under the Model Penal Code, the United States treats all accessories before the fact as principals. If you hire someone to commit an offence on your behalf, you can expect to be charged with the crime in question, and receive the same sentencing. Seems pretty reasonable to me - in what way is "but I only asked him to break into a computer for me, I didn't do it myself!" a defence?:

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. 1030

"Anyone who counsels, commands, aids or abets, or otherwise acts as an accessory before the fact

with respect to any federal crime is liable as a principal for the underlying substantive offense to

the same extent as the individual who actually commits the offense."

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Happy

Re: Model Penal Code

Sounds about right that the crime would be "transitive".

Otherwise, you could ask someone to ask someone to ask someone to ask someone to ask someone to kill somebody, and escape with a fine if caught.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Model Penal Code

That makes sense from a law-writing standpoint, but then surely the charge sheet should read 'accessory to...' - at least from any sort of standpoint involving common sense or accurate recording / reporting?

Then again, if the copper didn't actually do the hacking then there is no '...fact' for him to have been 'accessory before the...'. He's been arrested and charged with what might have happened. So his actual crime is some sort of solicitation to commit an illegal act, and that particular wording of 'accessory before the fact' can't be applied, surely?

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Big Brother

Re: Model Penal Code

The word you are looking for is Thoughtcrime, citizen.

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Re: Model Penal Code

Agreed. There wasn't any crime committed other than asking for a hacker, therefore in this instance that could be the only crime punished. If I post asking for someone to take me to the moon it doesn't mean they or I have been to the moon just that I wanted to go there. Surely a civilised society shouldn't punish people for thinking about things or wanting things - therapy perhaps, but not gaol.

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Re: Model Penal Code

"Surely a civilised society shouldn't punish people for thinking about things or wanting things - therapy perhaps, but not gaol."

The guy didn't try to hire a hacker on retainer because that might come in handy, and he didn't articulate his desires in the context of "gee I wish I could find someone who could erase my court record", he flat out asked the guy to do so. That is the commissioning of a crime, and that is intent. Anything else is semantics. By the way, as the name implies, thoughtcrime by definition remains within the confines of your head, or at most in journals, never intended for dissemination. This guy didn't commit thoughtcrime he committed crime.

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too much Mr. Robot for this guy.

also convicted guy owes 9k for assault, got what he deserved, someone kindly kick him in the gonads.

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Landis pleaded guilty to felony counts of computer trespass, tampering with public records, and unlawful use of a computer.

Why?

He didn't do any of that, in fact nobody did, he just tried (unsuccessfully) to hire someone else to do it?

He could be convicted of intent, but surely that's a different charge?

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Why?

" Landis pleaded guilty to felony counts of computer trespass, tampering with public records, and unlawful use of a computer.

Why?"

I'd hazard a guess at Plea Bargaining" -- they probably threatened to charge him with Terrorism and lock him up for 8,000 years unless he pleaded guilty to offences he didn't commit. I suspect the motivation for the prosecution would be that 'intent' is harder to prove.

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OK, we know he was thick, but can someone explain to me how the so called justice system entertained a prosecution and conviction for crimes that were not committed? And just how thick (or otherwise motivated) was the defence to not ask that judge why the accused was being accused of something that didn't happen.

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Meh

The proper charges should have been

Conspiracy to Commit <crime>.

But yeah.. I could see the aforementioned "plead guilty to this or face Terrorism charges" or possibly "We got you, plead guilty and the judge'll go easy on sentencing"..with no guarantee that said judge will go easy.

Alternatively, it could just be sloppy data entry and "Conspiracy to Commit <crime>" was shortened to " <crime>"

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can someone explain to me how the so called justice system entertained a prosecution and conviction for crimes that were not committed?

I don't know whether anyone can, but we can try. The concept you're looking for is "inchoate offense".

Landis committed a crime. Specifically, he hired someone else to commit various crimes, and that in itself is a crime - it's solicitation. AIUI, it's not conspiracy, since the person he negotiated with never had any intention of committing the crimes.

He used a computer to do it, and that's one of the three charges he plead guilty to: unlawful use of a computer.

The other two charges, computer trespass and tampering with public records, might have been abbreviated in the reports of the case from "solicitation to commit"; or the ADA might just have put the simple felonies down when Landis signed the plea agreement. Doesn't matter, since Landis did1 commit solicitation, according to both the prosecution and his own agreement, and for sentencing that's generally treated the same way.

The key point, though, is that solicitation is an "inchoate offense": the substantive crime being solicited does not have to be committed for there to have been a crime. (This is under US law, and things may be different in other jurisdictions.) It is against the law to pay (or offer to pay, or offer some other quid pro quo to) someone else to break the law (with serious intent).

The piece I linked to above says Landis basically asked for a demonstration (removing some of the fine) before handing over money - in effect, an informal contract to commit a crime. That would probably suffice to convince a jury of serious intent. So pleading guilty may well have been his better move in this case.

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"$9,000 to an assault victim"

So did he assume that if he erased the court records, the assault victim would not notice that they had not received the money?

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Perhaps he was just depending on the idiocy of bureaucracy.

"I'm owed $9000 and haven't received payment."

"Computer says no."

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The idiot filter worked.

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Ahh yes

The internet. Where the Men are Men, the Women are usually also Men and the Children Hitmen Hackers are Police officers

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@ Christoph...

I'm not sure that is how it works - and I am more than happy for anyone more knowledgeable to correct me here. But I believe that up to a certain threshold the "victim" gets their entire monetary award immediately (i.e. after 30/60 days etc.) from a state restitution fund or similar - or at the very least, as staged payments if it is a larger amount.

The perp on the other hand has to pay back the fund that has paid out the award to the victim - hence balancing those scales - but usually on an affordability / monthly repayment basis. So I assume he'd been paying back a set amount per month or similar.

The net affect is that I don't think the victim has to wait until the perp pays the fine (in part or in full), prior to receiving their award.

Still, I agree with other sentiments - surely the charge should have been "intent"... but I recognise that the "intent" had already transgressed to "conspiracy" the moment he engaged with the undercover cop.

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Anonymous Coward

Stupid idea, really

I work at a court in California. We had someone who worked here sell this type of service for drunk driving cases. He didn't get very far. While it's possible to change computer records, there IS an audit trail. Also, there's nothing you can do about what's in peoples' heads, such as the prosecutor who wondered where that particular case went, and was told it was dismissed by the judge. He'd been in court and knew perfectly well the case had NOT been dismissed. An investigation ensued, and the person responsible got 5 years prison. And lost their job and pension, and now enjoy the appellation of "ex-felon." All for a profit of less than $5,000. Like I said, stupid idea.

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ex? Re: Stupid idea, really

I thought ex-felon == felon. ?

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Re: Stupid idea, really

While it's possible to change computer records, there IS an audit trail.

Yeah. I've worked with some judicial back-end systems, and they all had pretty extensive audit mechanisms. They also were all running on big iron, and I don't think your average Craigslist-haunting script kiddie would have much luck "hacking" z/OS. And the back-end apps aren't the usual PHP-with-ad-hoc-queries-against-MySQL sort of crap, so things like SQL injection won't get far either.

I'm not claiming those systems are invulnerable, of course (such claims are meaningless if taken strictly, and naive if understood informally). But for various reasons they're not going to be vulnerable the ways a typical web or desktop application is, and that means you'd need specialized talent and likely insider knowledge (or a lot of resources for conducting covert research).

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Hacker Lives Matter

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