EnerVest saboteur gets four years in prison, ordered to pay fine - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

EnerVest saboteur gets four years in prison, ordered to pay fines

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A network engineer in EnerVest Operating's Charleston office has been sentenced to four years in federal prison for intentionally sabotaging his former employer's computer system.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said Ricky Joe Mitchell, 35, of Charleston, admitted he remotely accessed the company's computer system shortly after learning he was going to be fired and reset its network services to factory settings, essentially eliminating access to all of its data and applications for its eastern U.S. operations.

Before he was locked out of the EnerVest office, Mitchell also entered after working hours, disconnecting critical pieces of computer-network equipment and disabling the equipment's cooling system.

As a result of his actions, EnerVest was unable to fully communicate or conduct business operations for roughly 30 days and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attempting to recover historical data from its network services. Goodwin said some of the data cannot be recovered.

“Imagine having your company’s computer network knocked out for a month,” he said. “In this day and age, that kind of attack is devastating. And this defendant didn't’t just hurt EnerVest. He hurt his former co-workers, he hurt EnerVest’s customers, and, ultimately, he hurt consumers. The only good news here is that he didn't’t get away with it.”

EnerVest manages oil and gas exploration and production operations for its parent company, EnerVest Ltd., a major national oil and gas holding company, and for various affiliates of EnerVest Ltd.

In addition to his four-year prison sentence, U.S. District Judge John T. Cophenaver Jr. ordered Mitchell to pay $428,000 in restitution to EnerVest plus a $100,000 fine.

The U.S. Secret Service conducted the investigation. Goodwin and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas C. Ryan prosecuted the case.