Brain-Dump Site Owner Sentenced to Prison Time

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2003-02-03 Print this article Print

Robert Keppel, owner of the defunct brain dump sites and, pleaded guilty to charges of trade secrets theft.

A federal court on Friday sentenced former brain-dump site owner Robert Keppel to 12 months and one day in prison, as well as ordering him to pay $500,000 in restitution to Microsoft Corp. Keppel, owner of the defunct brain dump sites and, in August pleaded guilty to charges of theft of trade secrets, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1832(a)(2). The charges stemmed from the sale of exams and answers needed to become an MCSE (Microsoft Certified System Engineer) and MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solution Developer)—sales that were transacted through Keppels sites. Keppels defense attorney, Michelle Burrows, of Kolher and Burrows P.C., in Portland, Ore., said that, overall, she was pleased with the judges decision, although she thought the restitution was "a bit high" under the circumstances. According to Burrows, Microsoft had pressed for restitution of $1.9 million, as government prosecutors alleged that "… when companies hire people who have obtained MCSE and MCSD certificates by cheating, but who, in fact, cannot install and maintain the systems correctly because they have neither the experienced nor expertise in the Microsoft products commensurate with the certificates, those companies tend to blame the Microsoft product and become reluctant to buy other products."
Microsoft also claimed that they had to retool certification tests because they were corrupted due to Keppels actions, a claim that Burrows refuted. "Theres a number of certification prep classes that do what [Keppel did]," she said. "It would be hard to prove" that it was Keppels actions that caused the alleged corruption, she said. In addition, Burrows said, Microsoft had to retire exams, not because of corruption due to brain-dumping, but simply because of technology changes that made the exams obsolete.
In addition to the restitution and prison term—which the court recommended be served in a medium-security facility in Portland—Keppel was sentenced to three years of supervised release after his prison term, along with a $100 special assessment which will be paid to a court victims fund, according to John Hartingh, executive assistant U.S. attorney, in Seattle. The U.S. Attorneys Office earlier this week (Jan. 28) had filed a recommendation with the court that Keppel serve 18 months in federal prison. Burrows countered with a sentencing memo filed with the court that asked that Keppel not be sentenced to jail or be forced to pay millions in restitution. The $500,000 restitution will be offset by a credit of $200,000 from assets that were previously seized. As far as where Keppel would come up with the remaining $300,000, Burrows said that her client is broke and will have to set up a payment schedule when he finishes his prison term. "It could be Microsoft gets payments of $200/month" for 125 years, she said.
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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