A man from Leicestershire has been jailed for posing as a cyber hacker and trying to blackmail his boss out of £200k.
The incident unfolded at the Oadby based aerospace business, Tek4. Christopher Read, who was the IT manager at the company sent untraceable emails to the managing director, Jason Duffin, threatening to delete important company data and unleash a debilitating virus on their network unless a heavy ransom was paid.
The first email was sent on Friday 13 January 2017, with a further 25 emails the following week. Read, 22, even included himself as a recipient of the email, to ensure he wasn’t suspected of any involvement.
The messages became increasingly menacing, stating GPS coordinates of personal vehicle locations and making reference to listening devices, suggesting someone was watching the company’s every move.
There was also a steadily rising ransom, with the last email demanding Bitcoins valued at just over £200,000.
The managing director of Tek4 contacted the police and the Regional Cyber Crime Unit was informed. Detectives investigating the threat examined Read’s computer and upon examination of the notebook folder, they discovered details relating to the plot. Read was arrested.
As officers delved deeper, they found Read had not only undertaken the intricate blackmail plot, but had also stolen computing equipment from his employer.
Furthermore, he had fraudulently taken £5,200 worth of gift cards from Halfords and was found to be in possession of goods suspected to have been purchased with these cards. Together the equipment and goods were worth around £17,000.
Read, formerly of Butt Lane in Husbands Bosworth, pleaded guilty to blackmail as well as five counts of fraud regarding the gift cards. He was jailed at Leicester Crown Court on Friday 23 March and ordered to serve a total of seven years and six months in jail.
Detective Constable Annie Frost said: “What was particularly unsettling about this case is that Read posed as a victim throughout, not only including himself as a recipient of the emails but at one stage even calling 999 claiming to have been followed in his car.”
“In interview, Read initially claimed he was bored. He thought he could create the problem then swoop in with a solution, saving the day by demonstrating his brilliant technical nous.”
“What Read hadn’t accounted for was his boss reporting it to police. But instead of pulling the plug he continued with the façade, causing even more disruption and anguish — appalling actions, the seriousness of which is reflected by the lengthy jail term he received here today.”