Man indicted for disabling offshore oil platform leak-detection system

A man who worked at a company that operated off-shore oil platforms was indicted on federal charges of damaging the company’s computer systems after it declined to offer him permanent employment.

Mario Azar, 28, was named in a one-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles. The indictment charges Azar with unauthorized impairment of a protected computer, a charge that carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

Azar was an information technology consultant under contract with the Long Beach-based Pacific Energy Resources, Ltd. (PER) until May 2008, when he left the company. Azar helped set up a computer system that PER used to communicate between its offices and its oil platforms. The computer system also served a “leak detection” function for PER.

During May and June of 2008, Azar illegally accessed the PER computer system and “caused damage by impairing the integrity and availability of data,” according to the indictment, which alleges that Azar caused thousands of dollars in damage.

While PER temporarily lost use of its computer systems as result of Azar’s conduct, the outage did not lead to any oil leaks or environmental harm. Azar will be summoned to make his initial appearance in United States District Court in Los Angeles on April 6.

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