March 18, 2016 / 10:31 PM / 2 years ago

Ex-Western Asset employee pleads guilty to computer intrusion

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An ex-employee of Western Asset Management Co pleaded guilty on Friday to repeatedly accessing his former supervisor’s email account after leaving the financial firm, conduct his lawyer said stemmed from a concern he was being criticized.

Kristopher Rocchio, who after leaving the company became a vice president at investment manager Neuberger Berman, pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized computer intrusion, according to court records.

In a statement Rocchio read in court, the Staten Island resident said from sometime in 2012 to February 2015, he used log-in information his former supervisor provided him while he worked at Western Asset Management to illegally read his emails.

“At the time, I knew that what I was doing was wrong,” Rocchio said. “I am deeply sorry for my actions and apologize for my illegal conduct.”

In announcing his arrest in December, prosecutors accused Rocchio, 38, of accessing the supervisor’s account on about 100 occasions without authorization.

Steven Feldman, Rocchio’s lawyer, in an interview said his client was motivated not by a desire to help his new employer, but instead by “very personal” concerns.

“He and his supervisor didn’t get along, and he wanted to see if he was speaking bad about him,” Feldman said.

Rocchio is scheduled to be sentenced July 21. He faces six to 12 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

The investigation came after the supervisor in February 2015 received a bounce-back message to his email account on an email he had not personally sent, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the supervisor noticed in his “sent mail” folder two emails he had not personally sent, including one to another email address attaching a spreadsheet with compensation and performance evaluation information for various employees.

When the supervisor checked his sent mail folder later in the day, both messages were gone, prosecutors said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation subsequently obtained a search warrant for the address that received the email and discovered it was registered to Rocchio, who had left Western Asset in March 2012, prosecutors said.

Along with the February email, the FBI found a December 2013 email from the supervisor’s account which had attached a PowerPoint presentation on the company’s internal metrics, according to court papers.

Feldman said Rocchio sent himself the presentation because of its format, which he wanted to use in the future, and not because of the information the presentation contained.

The case is U.S. v. Rocchio, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-cr-00222.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish

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