Ex-contractor sentenced for sabotaging Navy subs

Ex-contractor sentenced for sabotaging Navy subs
Ex-contractor sentenced for sabotaging Navy subs 

By Tim McGlone
The Virginian-Pilot 
(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 
potential harm."

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 
two-page letter.

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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