Atlanta Man Sentenced on Computer Hacking Charge

ATLANTA—ERIC McNEAL, 38, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Willis B. Hunt, Jr. for intentionally accessing a protected computer of a competing medical practice without authorization, including personal information of the patients, in order to send marketing materials to these patients.

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “Anyone who gives their personal information to a doctor or medical facility does not expect that their information will be hacked and used to make money. The cost of medical care is already high enough without patients having to pay a heavier cost with the loss of their privacy. This is cybercrime. Electronic information is bought, sold and stolen, often by someone who knows a system and, with a few keystrokes, makes our community vulnerable.”

McNEAL was sentenced to one year and one month in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to perform 120 hours of community service. McNEAL pleaded guilty to the charge on September 28, 2011.

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charge,s and other information presented in court: McNEAL worked as an information technology specialist for “A.P.A.,” a perinatal medical practice in Atlanta. McNEAL separated from employment with A.P.A. in November 2009, and subsequently joined a competing perinatal medical practice, which was located in the same building as A.P.A. In April 2010, MCNEAL used his home computer to hack into A.P.A.’s patient database without authorization. MCNEAL downloaded the names, telephone numbers, and addresses of A.P.A.’s patients, and then “wiped” A.P.A.’s database, deleting all the patient information from A.P.A.’s system. McNEAL subsequently used the patient names and contact information to launch a direct-mail marketing campaign for the benefit of his new employer. There is no evidence that McNEAL downloaded or misused specific patient medical information.

This case was investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant United States Attorney Steven D. Grimberg and United States Attorney’s Office law student Casey Boome prosecuted the case.

For further information, please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney’s Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.

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