Oil industry networking site creator pleads guilty in U.S. hacking case

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The founder of an oil and gas networking website accused of hacking into a rival site he had created and sold to DHI Group Inc pleaded guilty to a computer fraud charge on Monday, prosecutors said.

Federal prosecutors in March charged David Kent, 41, with having stolen data on more than 500,000 user resumes from, which he sold for $51 million in 2010, to boost the membership of his new site

Prosecutors at the time said that Kent then tried to sell Oilpro, created in 2013, to DHI by misrepresenting that the new website increased its membership to 500,000 through standard marketing methods.

In Manhattan federal court on Monday, Kent pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and related activity in connection with computers. As part of a plea deal, he agreed not to appeal any sentence of 4-3/4 years or less.

A lawyer for Kent did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Kent, a resident of Spring, Texas, is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote on March 17.

Rigzone was launched by Kent in 2000 and allows members to create profiles and upload resumes. When the website was sold to New York-based DHI in 2010, its member database was worth $6 million, according to court papers.

From the start, Kent aimed to build a website that DHI would be interested in acquiring, a criminal complaint said. By January 2016, the database of his new Houston-based company had grown to 500,000 members, the complaint said.

Rigzone’s database was hacked twice in 2014 and 2015, the complaint said, resulting in members being solicited to join Oilpro, the complaint said.

DHI has said that it cooperated with authorities in the investigation. Under his plea agreement, Kent has agreed to pay the company $3.29 million in restitution.

The case is U.S. v. Kent, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-cr-385.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; editing by Grant McCool