May 26, 2006 12:23 PM PDT

Teens arrested in alleged MySpace extortion scam

Two New York teenagers have been arrested and charged with attempting to extort $150,000 from MySpace, the popular community Web site.

Shaun Harrison, 18, and Saverio Mondelli, 19, both of whom are from Suffolk County, N.Y., were arrested in a sting operation last week, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office said Wednesday. The pair had traveled to Los Angeles to meet people they allegedly believed were MySpace employees, but who were in fact undercover investigators, according to the district attorney's statement.

The alleged crimes began late last year when the two young men took advantage of a flaw they had discovered in the MySpace Web site in order to obtain personal information on MySpace users, the district attorney said.

MySpace discovered the intrusion earlier this year and blocked it. The Los Angeles-based company also reported the incident to authorities. During the course of the investigation, threats were made that unless $150,000 was paid, new exploit code would be released, according to the statement.

By this time, the sting operation had been set up, so instead of meeting with MySpace late last week, the pair from New York met with undercover officers from the U.S. Secret Service and the Los Angeles District Attorney's Bureau of Investigation.

Harrison and Mondelli, both programmers, operated a Web site called MySpacePlus.com, according to the district attorney's office. The Web site looks to be a storefront for SpyFuse, which appears to be a tool that can be used to manipulate MySpace. A statement on the Web site says the tool is currently unavailable due to an "unexpected legal complication."

MySpace declined to comment other than to say that executives are cooperating with law enforcement. The company, owned by News Corp., recently reported that membership has grown to 70 million.

Jane Robinson, press secretary for the L.A. district attorney's office, said that Harrison and Mondelli were charged with multiple felony counts, including illegal computer access, sending a threatening letter for extortion and attempted extortion.

The pair could be sent to prison for more than four years if convicted, Robinson said. Both men were arraigned this week and pleaded not guilty. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for June 5.

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6 comments

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Not guilty?
They're caught in the act and still plead not guilty?
Posted by Seaspray0 (9714 comments )
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Not Guilty Plea.......
INAL but your plea has little to do with whether you actually committed a crime. It has more to do with legal strategy than anything else. In a case like this I see these guys using the not guilty plea to buy time so they can negotiate a plea bargain.
Posted by JerzeyRich (17 comments )
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Other Circumstances as Well
Besides the fact that they were caught in the act and we all know that they are guilty, they can claim with some justification this is entrapment. It depends on the details of the case. It sounds to me like the cops were very careful, especially since some of them were from the DA's office. Sting operations are difficult business because of the thin and wavy lines of legality. For example, if a cop came up to you and said he'd pay you $10,000 for x lbs of cocaine, that would be entrapment. However, if the cop was undercover, he was thought to be a potential transporter, and you attempted to sell him some, entrapment would vanish. Of course, most cases are going to be more difficult than this, because cops will have to make certain demands and so on. With lawyers and Feds apprehending these two lovely citizens, we can be pretty sure that they followed the rules.
Posted by CNerd2025 (98 comments )
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Huh?
What were we talking about again?
Posted by EricDaEvilGenius (12 comments )
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Job
They can claim that they thought they were going for a job interview with a salary of $150,000
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
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Bring Down MySpace!
Ya, finally someone tries to bringdown the evilness that is MySpace. No but seriously, how stupid could these kids be? $150,000? Did they really think they were gonna get that money, and how? Did they think they were gonna get a check in the mail from Myspace?

I do not like MySpace and i almost find it a tad funny that people would do stuff like this.
Posted by waterdrop (39 comments )
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