Man Arrested in Online Extortion Case

SAN FRANCISCO (08/24/2000) - A 39-year-old Florida man was arrested Tuesday on charges that he attempted to extort more than $1 million from a company that makes computer-aided design software by threatening to post on the Web numerical "keys" that would enable anyone to use the software without first paying for it.

Michael Pitelis of Tarpon Springs, Fla., allegedly sent e-mail messages earlier this month to executives at Waltham, Mass.-based Parametric Technology Corp.

(PMTC) requesting the money and insinuating that someone inside the company was involved. Parametric's Pro/Engineer product sells for $5,000 to millions of dollars, depending on how many modules are licensed, according to spokeswoman Roberta Carleton.

FBI agents were able to trace the e-mail messages to a public library computer, which agents say they found Pitelis using. If convicted, he faces 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Pitelis, who did not return a phone call requesting comment Wednesday, is a consultant specializing in training and support of Parametric's Pro/Engineer software, according to his Web site.

There have been two other notable online extortion attempts this year. In January, someone illegally obtained 350,000 credit card numbers from CD Universe's Web site and then threatened to post them online unless he was paid $100,000. Authorities eventually shut down the Web site used to expose the numbers.

In May, a Colorado State University graduate student was charged with attempting to extort money from audio content company Audible Inc. (ADBL) .com when he allegedly threatened to leak to the media information about a security hole in the company's system that would allow people to get content without paying. He was arrested after he provided his address to Audible.com so that the company could ship him the thousands of dollars in cash and a new Volvo he demanded in exchange for keeping the security hole information to himself.

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