San Jose Man Pleads Guilty to Computer Hack that Shut Down Opening Day Concession Sales at San Jose Earthquakes Stadium
SAN JOSE – Salvatore A. La Rosa pleaded guilty today in federal court in San Jose to intentional damage to a protected computer, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair.
La Rosa, 41, of San Jose, admitted in his guilty plea to intentionally accessing Spectra Food Services and Hospitality’s (Spectra) on-line concessions management account for the Earthquakes Stadium without permission on February 29, 2020. The Earthquakes Stadium is home to the San Jose Earthquakes, a Major League Soccer team, and their first home game of the 2020 season was February 29, 2020. Spectra, headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was the concessions contractor for the stadium, and employees used Spectra’s mobile tablets as their Point-of-Sale terminals to sell food and other concession items. The tablets displayed menus and payment selections from an online-based application developed for sports stadiums.
La Rosa admitted in his plea agreement that he was a former employee of Spectra and worked at the stadium from February 14, 2015, until his termination on January 6, 2020. He admitted that he thereafter logged into the administrative port for the Earthquakes Stadium from his residence and used a password, without authority, to access Spectra’s concession menu and payment selections. During his unauthorized access, he intentionally deleted Spectra’s concession menu and payment selections. This act caused all of the Point-of-Sale tablets used by Spectra’s staff to stop working. Spectra’s ability to accept credit cards was also disabled. During the soccer match on February 29, 2020, Spectra’s staff had to resort to handwriting orders and using calculators to complete cash transactions, with the resulting delay leading to lost sales and verbal abuse from customers. In some instances, Spectra had to provide free food and beverages to club members because of its inability to process credit card transactions.
On March 7, 2020, Spectra and the San Jose Earthquakes, in an attempt to regain the trust and business of customers, offered a fifty-percent discount on all concessions at that day’s game.
According to the charging document filed in the case, Spectra suffered a loss of over $268,000 in damages, consisting of lost revenue, concession discounts offered at the March 7 game, employee time to repair the damage to the data, and labor costs.
“Once a computer hack has been discovered, it is critically important for business leaders to report the intrusion promptly and to cooperate fully with law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Anderson. “I want to thank Spectra and the San Jose Earthquakes for their good corporate citizenship. La Rosa’s conviction follows their prompt reporting and effective cooperation.”
“Insider threats can be incredibly damaging to companies, their data, and intellectual property even after an individual is no longer employed by the company,” said FBI San Francisco Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair. “It is important that companies take the necessary steps to ensure that the security of their networks and operations remain intact and that they are only available to those with authorized access.”
On October 27, 2020, La Rosa was charged by Information with one count of Intentional Damage to a Protected Computer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030(a)(5)(A) and (c)(4)(B)(i). Under the plea agreement, La Rosa pled guilty to the sole count of the Information. La Rosa remains out of custody on bond.
La Rosa’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for 9:15 a.m. on May 19, 2021, before United States District Judge Lucy H. Koh in San Jose. The maximum statutory penalty for each count in violation of Intentional Damage to a Protected Computer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030(a)(5)(A) and (c)(4)(B)(i), is ten years imprisonment and a fine of $25,000, plus restitution if appropriate. However, any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
Susan Knight is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of legal tech Elise Etter and paralegal Rebecca Shelton. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of California