Montgomery County and Florida Women Convicted of Conspiring to Access Company Computers For Money

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Frances Marie Eddings, 68, of Orlando, FL, and Jude Denis, 54, of Wyncote, PA, were convicted after trial in the Allentown Federal Courthouse of accessing a computer system without authorization for pecuniary gain from a non-profit charity organization.

In September 2019, the defendants were charged with one count of conspiracy, three counts of unauthorized access to a computer, and aiding and abetting, stemming from their scheme to receive a payment of money from the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF), Denis’ former employer. In support of that scheme, they accessed internal documents obtained via unauthorized access to the computer system of PCF and threatened to release them to the public. Denis was hired by PCF in August 2014 but left her position shortly thereafter.

Evidence presented at trial showed that on several occasions over the course of several days after Denis left her employment, PCF computers were accessed, and documents were downloaded to her laptop and emailed to Eddings. In a series of emails sent by Eddings to PCF, the defendants demanded a payment of $150,000 in lost wages for Denis, as well as a $37,500 payment for Eddings for acting on Denis’ behalf. In those emails, Eddings threatened to release the documents to the public if their demands were not met. When their demands were ultimately not met, Eddings sent a series of emails to the PCF Board, PCF donors, and members of the media, sharing her previous correspondence and attaching the documents.

“Cyber-intrusion is a threat to all types of businesses, including non-profits,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “Individuals who take advantage of a company’s vulnerability like these defendants did shows how easily sensitive information can be compromised. However, the defendants didn’t count on how decisively our Office would respond by holding them accountable for their illegal actions.”

“It should go without saying that committing cyber intrusions to settle a score is an incredibly bad idea,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “Denis wanted payback from the nonprofit for its perceived unfairness and her friend Eddings was on board to help. Their short-sighted scheme has brought serious consequences, as evidenced by these convictions. The FBI is committed to tracking down and holding accountable cyber criminals, whatever their motivation for willfully breaking the law.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Alison Kehner and Kishan Nair.