Man pleads guilty to federal charges

A local man will serve eight months in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges that he stole information, and ultimately business, from the company he’d worked for for about 10 years.

Benjamin Levi Cox, 34, of Nineveh, was sentenced June 14 for theft of Electric Metal Fab Inc.’s proprietary information and wiretapping its email, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Cox resigned from Helmsburg-based Electric Metal Fab Inc. in June 2013 as the information technology system administrator, company owner Mandy Chittum said.

“What happened was awful. I wish it had never happened,” she said last week.

Cox also was the designer of Electric Metal Fab Inc.’s computer-aided drafting system the company used to design its products. He admitted to copying the company’s entire computer system to an external hard drive beginning in March 2013.

Over the next three months, Cox loaded all of the company’s digital information, including thousands of designs, financial data, personnel records and operational and technical documents, to the external device, a news release said.

When he resigned, he took the hard drive with him to a new job at a direct competitor. Then he copied the files to his new employer’s computer and altered Electric Metal Fab Inc.’s designs to look like the competitor created them, the Department of Justice said.

The competitor used those designs to obtain more than $45,000 in new contracts with customers who had previously been Electric Metal Fab Inc.’s clients, the release said.

Chittum said the hack “definitely” hurt business.

“I worked with him for years and trusted him,” she said. “I would have never dreamed (this would happen).

“It wasn’t like someone hacked into our computers from the outside and it wasn’t someone I knew; this was an inside job from someone I personally knew and trusted,” she said.

Cox also admitted to using his IT privileges to configure Electric Metal Fab Inc.’s email account settings to forward emails to two external email accounts he created. The intercepted emails included personal correspondence, private financial and legal information and business dealings, according to the press release.

Cox pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of wire fraud and one count of interception of electronic communication.

In addition to his eight-month prison term, he was ordered to serve seven months of home confinement, two years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $27,490 in restitution.

He also has to perform six months of unpaid community service, the release states.

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.