Web designers admit to trashing client's Web site

The CEO of Seattle-area consulting company Minecode faces prison time for destroying a customer's Web site.

Executives from a Seattle-area consulting company are facing prison time after pleading guilty to charges that they wiped a client's Web site off the Internet following a contract dispute.

Minecode, of Bellevue, Washington, had built the online gift shop for wine retailer Vinado, but things soured in late 2006, according to a statement released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Justice. In December, Minecode President and CEO Pradyumna Samal ordered Sandeep Verma, a project manager with the company, to disable the Web site's gift shop. The next month Samal "caused commands to be transmitted to Vinado's Web site that resulted in the deletion of Vinado's Web site, e-mail server and database in its entirety," the DoJ said.

Samal and Minecode pleaded guilty Thursday to two misdemeanor counts of computer intrusion. The project manager, Verma, has pleaded guilty to one count of the same charge. The two men face up to a year in prison on each count and fines of up to US$100,000. They are set to be sentenced on April 8 at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

The company has agreed to pay $120,000 for damages associated with the incident, and Minecode could be fined another $240,000, the DoJ said.

"Computer intrusion is a serious crime," the DoJ said. "Whether it is a hacker seeking to harm our citizens, or misguided businessmen using technology to escalate a dispute, these crimes will be investigated and prosecuted."

Founded in 2001 by former Microsoft Program Manager Samal, Minecode has a staff of more than 500, according to the company's Web site. Samal did not immediately return a call seeking comment for this story.

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