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Former worker ordered to prison

| Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2003

In one night of alcohol-fueled revenge, Kenneth Patterson went from being a law-abiding computer whiz to one who committed crimes that will send him to federal prison.

Patterson, 38, of Greensburg, was sentenced to 18 months in prison Tuesday for having infiltrated the computers of American Eagle Outfitters in Marshall Township, Allegheny County. He caused his former employer at least $70,000 in losses, officials said.

Defense attorney Martin A. Dietz said Patterson used his passwords on Thanksgiving Day 2002 to disable the firm's ability to process credit-card purchases.

The retailer's stores in the United States and Canada were denied computer services from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, 2002 -- the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

"The computer system was chaotic for two or three days," said Senior U.S. District Judge Gustave Diamond. "It doesn't take too much to make a customer leave the store."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul E. Hull said Patterson had chosen "a particular vulnerable time for revenge" on what is known as "Black Friday" -- the day after Thanksgiving, when merchants hope to "get into the black" with high shopping volume.

He said Patterson's actions, described as "calculating and particularly malicious," could have had catastrophic consequences, which separated him from the "run-of-the-mill hacker."

Dietz said Patterson, the retailer's data-communications manager, was fired in October 2002 over a problem with an e-mail server. The defense attorney contended that Patterson was under the influence of alcohol and was not thinking clearly when he got into the firm's computers from his home.

Patterson had pleaded guilty to causing damage to a protected computer and to trafficking in passwords.

The prosecutors also said Patterson listed user-name and password combinations of some legitimate American Eagle Outfitters users on a hacker group posting board at a public library, along with instructions on how to hack into the network.

Patterson said he has "regrets and remorse" for his actions, which he called "reckless and childish, although with serious consequences."

"I want to return to a respectful and law-abiding life," he said.

Diamond ordered Patterson to make restitution of $64,835 and to serve two years on supervised release after the prison term.

Diamond said 18 months in prison was more than enough time to discourage others from committing the same crime.

The judge permitted Patterson to report to the prison designated by the federal Board of Prisons no earlier than Jan. 5.

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