Investigative & Security Professionals for Legislative Action

Unlicensed Florida PI Charged With Computer Crime

15 Sep 2015 7:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

UNLICENSED FLORIDA PI ARRESTED FOR COMPUTER CRIME: claims to be searching for transfer of funds from charitable organization to Jihadist groups

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against Florida "Private Investigator" For Attempting To Gain Unauthorized Access To The Computer Network Of A Global Charitable Organization

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Robert J. Sica, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Office of the United States Secret Service, announced on September 14 the filing of a criminal complaint against TIMOTHY SEDLAK for attempting to gain unauthorized access to the computer network of a global charitable organization based in New York, NY (the “Organization”).  Sedlak was arrested in Ocoee, Florida on the evening of September 11, 2015 and was presented September 14 in federal court before U. S. Magistrate Judge Gregory J. Kelly in Orlando, FL.

Sedlak, 42, of Ocoee, Florida, was charged with one count of attempted unauthorized access to a computer, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.  The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided for informational purposes only. According to the complaint, an unidentified global charity headquartered in New York experienced some 390,000 attempts to gain unauthorized access to its computer network from June to July, 2015.

The attempted intrusions, which disrupted employees' ability to access email and conduct business, were made by computers associated with two internet protocol addresses subscribed to by Sedlak at his home in Florida.

On LinkedIn, Sedlak holds himself out as an investigator with Surveillance Associates, LLC, a Florida company registered in his name. However, complaint indicates that he did not have a license to work as a private investigator in Florida.

The Complaint filed in Manhattan federal court also revealed the following:

Computers associated with two particular internet protocol addresses made nearly four hundred thousand attempts to gain unauthorized access to the Organization’s computer network.  As a result, numerous Organization employees experienced difficulty accessing their Organization email accounts, and were disrupted in their ability to conduct regular business functions.  Both of the IP Addresses were subscribed to Sedlak at his residence in Florida.

In particular, between June 22, 2015 and July 8, 2015, from one of the IP Addresses, there were approximately 195,000 attempts to log into approximately twenty email accounts of the Organization.  Between July 8, 2015 and July 10, 2015, from the other IP Address, there were an additional approximately 195,000 attempts to log into approximately six email accounts of the Organization.  Sedlak had never been employed by the Organization, and was not authorized to access any email accounts of the Organization.

On September 11, 2015, US Secret Service agents executed a search warrant at the Sedlak Residence, from which they seized, among other things, (i) approximately 30 computers connected to the same internal network, which enabled each computer to communicate with the others (the “Sedlak Computers”); (ii) notes pertaining to the Organization, an executive of the Organization (“Individual-1”) and an individual who has been publicly affiliated with the Organization (“Individual-2”), including e-mail addresses, registrant information for certain website domain names, and certain IP address information associated with the Organization, Individual-1 and/or Individual-2; and (iii) lists of e-mail addresses and e-mail servers, many of which included the word “jihad.”  The Sedlak Computers contained, among other things, a list of certain Organization employees’ email account usernames, and a “brute force” password-cracking tool.  Such a tool is designed to launch a relentless barrage of potential passwords at an email account in an attempt to guess the account’s password.

That same date Secret Service agents interviewed Sedlak, who claimed to be using the computers to conduct “research” into charitable organizations in the course of his work as a private investigator.  He claimed to be trying to determine if the organizations were unintentionally financing jihadist groups by sending funds to charitable organizations in the Middle East, which are then seized by jihadist groups.  When questioned about notes pertaining to Individual-1 and Individual-2 found at the Sedlak residence, he claimed that he came across such information in his “research” into the financing of jihadist groups and that he hoped to sell the information he found.

The investigation remains ongoing. This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  AUSA Kristy J. Greenberg is in charge of the prosecution. (U.S. v. Sedlak, U.S. District Court, SDNY - No. 15-mj-3265)

Bruce Hulme, ISPLA Director of Government Affairs

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