In early May, a Saratoga Springs man was charged with hacking into the United Airlines website and stealing travel vouchers that he then sold to other people. Ammon Cunningham was charged in 3rd District Court with various computer crimes, theft, communications fraud, and engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, all second-degree felonies.
Cunningham Hacked United Airlines Website to Obtain Travel Vouchers
According to the charging documents, from approximately July 2012 through September 2012, Cunningham (who went by the alias Jacob Colvin) “unlawfully accessed (hacked) the United Airlines website and obtained Personal Identification (PIN) codes for Electronic Travel Certificates that had been assigned to United customers but had not yet been redeemed by those customers.”
Cunningham Used Vouchers for Himself or Sold Them to Others at Below Market Value
Prosecutors said that, once Cunningham obtained the travel vouchers, “He either used the ETCs for personal travel, or he sold them through various classified ad sites, including Craigslist and KSL.com.” Cunningham was alleged to have used 13 certificates for himself, valued at more than $7,800. Prosecutors also alleged that Cunningham sold some 120 vouchers to others, which were valued at more than $58,000. Prosecutors said Cunningham sold the vouchers at discounted prices, and that one couple purchased two vouchers valued at approximately $2,400 for less than $2,000, and booked a roundtrip vacation from New Jersey to Munich with the vouchers.
Cunningham Contacted United Airlines About “Massive Hole” He Found in Website Using Alias
Interestingly, in September 2012, prosecutors said that Cunningham contacted United Airlines through email using an alias, explaining to United that he had “found a massive hole in the United.com website.” Cunningham told United that he was willing to disclose to them this alleged “massive hole” he had found, but only if United would pay him $10,000 and supply him with first-class airfare to any place in the world for himself, his wife and, his child, the charges set forth.
Cunningham Pleads Guilty, Charge May be Reduced
Now, more than three months after he was charged, Cunningham has pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity as part of a plea bargain. As part of the plea deal, the other second-degree felonies of computer crimes, theft, and communications fraud were dismissed. Additionally, prosecutors have agreed to hold Cunningham’s plea in abeyance, meaning that any potential prison sentence will be stayed and the charge could be reduced to a Class A misdemeanor in one year if Cunningham is able to complete 80 hours of community service, he pays restitution, and commits no additional crimes.
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