Argentine Computer Hacker Agrees to Waive Extradition
and Returns to Plead Guilty to Felony Charges in Boston

May 19, 1998

BOSTON, MA ... The Argentine computer hacker who was tracked down with the aid of the first court-ordered wiretap of a computer network has returned voluntarily to the United States and is expected to plead guilty to illegal wiretapping and computer crime felonies today at one o'clock.

United States Attorney Donald K. Stern announced that JULIO CESAR ARDITA of Buenos Aries, Argentina has returned voluntarily to the United States as part of a plea agreement to plead guilty to charges contained in an Information filed in the United States District Court.

Under the present extradition treaty with Argentina, Ardita could not be extradited.

"If we aren't vigilant, cyber crime will turn the Internet into the Wild West of the 21st century," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "The Justice Department is determined to pursue cyber-criminals at home and abroad,"

U.S. Attorney Stern stated: "This case demonstrates that we will unwaveringly seek to bring international computer criminals to justice. However, the international tools available to computer crime investigators and prosecutors are perilously slow and inadequate. If law enforcement is to be put on even terms with criminals who cross between countries at the speed of light, multilateral treaties embodying the ever increasing cooperation between countries fighting computer crimes must be put in place."

Stern added, "We must make sure that we have a world wide web of criminal justice to catch cyber-criminals."

During the summer of 1995, the Department of Defense detected intrusions into a number of military and university computer systems containing important and sensitive information about government research on satellites, radiation and energy. The activity was traced to a changing set of misappropriated accounts on an Internet host computer at Harvard University.

Stern's investigative team put together an electronic profile of the intruder, using key words such as unique names the intruder gave to files and Internet protocol addresses of systems being targeted by him. This profile was used to apply for the wiretap order, the first ever obtained to search communications over a computer network, and to configure a monitoring computer which had been adapted to conduct the complex, high speed searches needed to isolate his activities.

Barry W. Mawn, Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, stated, "Computer intrusions represent a significant crime problem. As this case demonstrates, cyber-criminals know no state or international borders. It was excellent joint and international cooperative law enforcement efforts, in the U.S. and with Argentine authorities, that brought about the successful conclusion to this case."

Pursuant to a plea agreement, Ardita agreed to waive extradition and plead guilty to charges that he unlawfully intercepted electronic communications over a military computer and that he damaged files on a second military computer. The agreement contains a joint sentence recommendation of three years' probation and a $5,000 fine. If adopted by the District Court, the agreement calls for the sentence to be imposed immediately following Ardita's plea. The agreement also acknowledges that Ardita had cooperated completely and truthfully to date and had been debriefed over a two week period in Buenos Aires.

This case was investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen P. Heymann, Deputy Chief of Stern's Criminal Division, and Jacqueline Ross.

Press contact: Amy Rindskopf, (617) 223-9445