Design engineer Jason Needham, 45, is the co-owner of HNA Engineering PLLC in Arlington, and his plea was for intentionally accessing a competing engineering firm’s computer network without proper authorization in order to obtain proprietary information.
Needham admitted that, over a nearly two-year period, he repeatedly accessed the servers of his former employer, Allen & Hoshall in Memphis. The purpose was to download digitally rendered engineering schematics and more than 100 PDF documents containing project proposals and budgetary documents.
He also admitted to accessing, on hundreds of occasions, the email account of a former colleague at the company, giving himself access to the firm’s marketing plans, project proposals, company fee structures and the rotating account credentials for the company’s internal document-sharing system.
Needham is the son of Shelby County Public Works Director Tom Needham, also a former employee of Allen & Hoshall.
Needham has reportedly agreed to pay nearly $140,000 in restitution to Allen & Hoshall and to pay for identity theft services for the relevant former co-workers.
Sentencing is set for July 14, 2017. Violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is a felony with a maximum potential sentence of five years in federal prison and a quarter of a million dollars in fines.
His plea came before U.S. District Judge John T. Fowlkes Jr. of the Western District of Tennessee.
The FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra L. Ireland of the Western District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Timothy C. Flowers of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section prosecuted the case.
Needham’s plea was announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence J. Laurenzi of the Western District of Tennessee.