Brain Dump Site Nailed for Trade-Secret Theft

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2002-08-30 Print this article Print

The owner of defunct has pleaded guilty to charges of theft of trade secrets after selling copies of MCSE and MCSD exams and answers.

Robert Keppel, owner of the defunct brain dump sites and, has pleaded guilty to charges of theft of trade secrets after selling exams and answers needed to become an MCSE (Microsoft Certified System Engineer) and MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solution Developer). According to the U.S. Attorneys Office in Seattle and the FBI, beginning in 1999, Keppel began selling the exams and answers via the CheetSheets Web sites. According to government officials, in January 2001, Keppel began buying actual copies of the MCSE and MCSD exams and answers. The individual from whom Keppel bought the exams and answers, whom government officials declined to identify, photographed and/or videotaped actual tests at a test site in Pakistan, the government officials said. Those materials made Keppel some hefty profits: Records from NOVA, an Internet company that performs billing services for Visa and Mastercard, show that between July 2000 and October 2001, Keppel deposited about $756,633 worth of business proceeds into a merchant account. Those funds represent proceeds from the sale of the pirated MCSE and MCSD exams and answers, as well as other exams belonging to Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and other businesses, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1832(a)(2), prohibiting theft of trade secrets.
Keppel will face sentencing on Nov. 1. He has already agreed to forfeit a Lexus RX300 and a Ferrari 355 Spider bought with money made off In addition, the government has seized $56,000 from merchant bank accounts. He faces up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.
Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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