By Tim McGlone
(c) April 5, 2007
NORFOLK - A former government contractor whose top-secret security
clearance enabled him to sabotage Navy 6th Fleet computers was sentenced
Wednesday to a year in prison.
Richard F. Sylvestre of Boylston, Mass., pleaded guilty to one count of
damaging protected computers and could have faced as much as 10 years in
U.S. District Judge Rebecca B. Smith cited Sylvestre's clean criminal
record and other favorable factors in sentencing him to the low end of
federal sentencing guidelines. The guidelines, which consider numerous
factors that can increase or decrease penalties, recommended a 12- to
18-month prison term in this case.
"If we can't trust people with top-security clearance, where are we?"
the judge said toward the end of a lecture to Sylvestre.
"I think the severity of the crime is overwhelming," she said. "The
potential harm to these people on the submarines... there was great
A s the now-former owner of Ares Systems International, Sylvestre held a
contract to provide computer maintenance for the Navy's 6th Fleet, based
in Naples, Italy.
He confessed to programming malicious software codes into computers that
track Navy submarines in May 2006 while in Naples. He told Navy
investigators that he was upset that his company's bid on a project was
passed over. Sylvestre had fled Italy after he entered the codes.
Three of five computers that he sabotaged were shut down. Had his plan
succeeded in reaching all five, the entire network would have been
"The Navy would have been blind," Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J.
Krask told the judge.
In a worst-case scenario, submarines could have ended up colliding with
each other but the threat of that occurring diminished during the two
days it took computer experts to fix the problem, officials said.
Rear Adm. Jeffrey L. Fowler, deputy commander of the 6th Fleet, wrote to
the court that the computers are used to track submarines "because of
the limited ability of individual submarines to detect submerged hazards
to navigation, including other submarines."
Sabotaging the computers hinders "the ability of submarines to prevent
collisions and could result in loss of life," the admiral wrote in a
Fowler said it took 540 man- hours to repair the damage and inspect all
65 computers at the Naples site. The sabotage also forced the Navy to
impose additional layers of security to prevent similar security
In asking for no prison time, Sylvestre and his attorney presented
testimony from family members and friends who said his actions were
completely out of character. A psychiatrist also testified that
Sylvestre suffers from depression and bipolar disorder.
Sylvestre's sister, Nancy Rappaport of Rhode Island, acknowledged the
"horrendous, horrific mistake" he made, but asked the judge for
leniency, citing his clean record and dedication to volunteer work.
She testified that she was so surprised of her brother's arrest that had
she been asked whether aliens had landed or whether her brother had
committed a federal felony, she would have chosen the aliens.
"It's still shocking, as I sit here today," she said.
Smith also fined Sylvestre $10,000 and placed him on three years of
probation upon his release. She also allowed him to self-report to
federal custody by June 1. He has already repaid the Navy $25,000 for
the damage he caused. Sylvestre remains free on bond.
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