CHARLESTON, W. Va. – In a release on Tuesday, United States Attorney Booth Goodwin announced a former network engineer at Charleston-based EnerVest Operating, LLC, was sentenced to four years in federal prison for intentionally causing severe damage to his employer’s computer system.

Ricky Joe Mitchell, 35, of Charleston, admitted to remotely accessing EnerVest’s computer system and resetting the company’s network servers to factory settings, essentially eliminating access to all of the company’s data and applications for its eastern United States operations in June 2012, shortly after he learned he was going to be fired.

Before his access to EnerVest’s offices could be terminated, Mitchell entered the offices after business hours, disconnected critical pieces of computer-network equipment, and disabled the equipment’s cooling system. As a result of Mitchell’s destructive acts, EnerVest was unable to fully communicate or conduct business operations for approximately 30 days. The company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attempting to recover historical data from its network servers, and some of its data were lost forever.

“Imagine having your company’s computer network knocked out for a month,” Goodwin said. “In this day and age, that kind of attack is devastating and this defendant didn’t just hurt EnerVest. He hurt his former co-workers, he hurt EnerVest’s customers, and, ultimately, he hurt consumers. The only good news here is that he didn’t get away with it.”

In addition to his four-year prison sentence, Mitchell was ordered to pay $428,000 in restitution to EnerVest, plus a $100,000 fine. United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr., imposed today’s sentence.

EnerVest manages oil and gas exploration and production operations for its parent company, EnerVest Ltd.—a major national oil and gas holding company—and for various affiliates of EnerVest Ltd.

The United States Secret Service conducted the investigation. United States Attorney Goodwin and Assistant United States Attorney Thomas C. Ryan handled the prosecution.

The case was prosecuted under U.S. Attorney Goodwin’s Business Protection Initiative, which fights fraud and other crimes against West Virginia businesses.

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