Software Exec Takes Fall for Hacking

Platte River Associates President Jay E. Leonard sentenced to 12 months supervised probation and a $2,500 fine after pleading guilty to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer. Platte River Associates, meanwhile, is facing charges of violating the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba.

The president of a Boulder, Colo., firm that develops software used in oil and gas exploration was sentenced Dec. 22 for hacking the computer system of a rival firm. Jay E. Leonard, 61, was sentenced to 12 months of supervised probation and fined $2,500.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Leonard used a wireless network connection at Houston International Airport to access a password-protected computer belonging to Zetaware, a rival of Platte River Associates. Shortly after the hack, Leonard chaired a company meeting in which, according to the plea agreement, "A tentative plan was discussed to exploit and to unlawfully utilize the downloaded Zetaware files for the economic gain of Platte River Associates."

Leonard faced a maximum of one year in prison, a $100,000 fine and restitution to Zetaware.

"Those who believe they can sit behind a computer, commit a crime and get away with it are wrong," FBI Special Agent James Davis said July 15 when Leonard was charged. "Mr. Leonard violated these laws for personal gain and will now have to face the consequences."

Platte River Associates made headlines earlier this year when the U.S. Department of Justice charged the company with "trading with the enemy" after the company allegedly provided specialized computer software and training which was then used to create a model for the potential exploration and development of oil and gas within the territorial waters of Cuba.

Platte River did not obtain a license from the Secretary of the Treasury as required before doing business with Cuba.

"Illegally exporting controlled U.S. technology is tantamount to a breach of ourborders," Jeffrey Copp, special agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Investigations in Denver said in July. "We will work with our law enforcement partners to identify, investigate and prosecute anyone who threatens our national security by exporting sensitive technology contrary to U.S. export laws."

If convicted of the trading with the enemy charge, Platte River Associates faces a fine of up to $1 million in addition to restitution.