ALLENTOWN — A Cheltenham Township resident is among two women convicted in US District Court this week of accessing a computer system without permission for pecuniary gain from a nonprofit charity.
US attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced Jude Denis, 54, of the Wyncote section of Cheltenham, and Frances Marie Eddings, 68, of Orlando, Florida, were convicted after a trial at the federal courthouse in ‘Allentown. The women face conviction later this year.
“Cyber intrusion is a threat to all types of businesses, including nonprofits,” Williams said. “Individuals who take advantage of a company’s vulnerability like these defendants did show how easily sensitive information can be compromised. However, the defendants did not expect our office to respond decisively by holding them accountable for their unlawful acts. »
In September 2019, the women were charged with one count of conspiracy, three counts of unauthorized computer access and aiding and abetting, stemming from their scheme to receive cash payment from the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF), Dennis’s old one. employer.
In support of the scheme, the defendants accessed internal documents obtained through unauthorized access to PCF’s computer system and threatened to make them public. Denis was hired by PCF in August 2014 but left her position shortly thereafter.
Evidence presented at trial showed that on several occasions over the course of several days after Denis quit his job, PCF computers were accessed and documents were downloaded to his laptop and emailed to Eddings.
In a series of emails sent by Eddings to PCF, the defendants demanded a payment of $150,000 in lost wages for Denis, as well as a payment of $37,500 for Eddings for acting on Denis’ behalf. In those emails, Eddings threatened to release the documents to the public if their demands were not met, prosecutors alleged.
When their demands were ultimately not met, Eddings sent a series of emails to CPF board members, CPF donors and members of the media, sharing his previous correspondence and attaching the documents, prosecutors say. .
“It goes without saying that committing cyber intrusions to settle a score is a very bad idea,” said Jacqueline Maguire, special agent in charge of the Philadelphia division of the FBI. “Denis wanted the nonprofit to take revenge for his perceived injustice and his friend Eddings was on board to help him. Their short-sighted scheme had serious consequences, as evidenced by these convictions.
“The FBI is committed to tracking down and holding cybercriminals accountable, regardless of their motivation for willfully breaking the law,” Maguire added.
The case has been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by US Assistant Attorneys Alison Kehner and Kishan Nair.