Sunday, August 23, 2009

Washington Man Charged With Federal Crimes in San Jose, California For Unauthorized Access Of Private Email Account

A recent case regarding unauthorized access of a Yahoo email account shows how accessing someone's email account can be a federal crime. Think of someone you know in a troubled relationship who finds out their partner's password and authorizes their email without authorization. Even if not done for financial gain, it is a crime. In professional and personal relationships, email is a tempting means of accessing private information about someone.

On July 15, 2009, a federal grand jury in San Jose, California indicted Gregory Alexander, of Everett, Washington, for unauthorized access of the private email account of a member of a not-for-profit organization’s board of directors. Mr. Alexander was charged with computer fraud and aggravated identity theft. He is currently out of custody on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond. The case is being prosecuted in San Jose since that is where Yahoo is located.

According to the indictment, Mr. Alexander used a username and password belonging to Randall Hough, a member of the United States Chess Federation’s (UCSF) Board of Directors, to access Hough’s private email account on 34 separate occasions spanning from November 2007 to June 2008. Mr. Alexander was the webmaster for a chess site known as Additionally, the indictment notes that Mr. Alexander obtained information from Hough’s account on an unspecified number of those occasions.

The maximum statutory penalty for each count of computer fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2) is 10 years and a fine of $250,000. The maximum statutory penalty for the count of aggravated identity theft in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1) is two years. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553. Please note, an indictment contains only allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, Mr. Alexander must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

For a copy of the indictment, go to:

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