Former Cardinals Exec Sentenced for Hacking

     HOUSTON (CN) – A former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director was sentenced Monday to 46 months in federal prison for hacking the Houston Astros’ database.
     U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes agreed with federal prosecutors’ recommendation to sentence Christopher Correa, 36, at the low end of the guidelines for five counts of unauthorized access of computers under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
     He also ordered Correa to pay $279,000 restitution.
     Correa, baby-faced and stocky, stood before a microphone in front of Hughes’ bench and read a statement: “I wish to apologize to the victims in this case. I apologize for compromising their sense of privacy, trespassing to access a computer system I wasn’t allowed to access … The whole episode represents the worst thing I’ve done in my life by far.
     “I’d also like to publicly apologize to my family for the pain they’ve endured as a result of my poor decisions.”
     Hughes interrupted: “Are they here?”
     “Yes,” Correa said.
     “Then turn around and look at them when you say that. Don’t tell me that.”
     Correa grimaced as he turned and addressed his family in the gallery, tightly packed among 50 spectators.
     Correa worked in the Cardinals’ front office from 2009 to 2015. The Cardinals promoted Correa to director of baseball development in 2013. In that position he analyzed players’ statistics to try to give the Cardinals a leg up on scouting and in the free-agent market.
     The Cardinals fired Correa in July 2015 after news broke that the FBI was investigating a Cardinals executive for hacking the Astros’ computer system.
     Houston federal prosecutors waited until Dec. 22 to charge Correa, and their charging affidavit was sealed until Correa pleaded guilty in January.
     The Astros have a private database called “Ground Control” where they store confidential scouting reports and contract information, court records state.
     Jeff Luhnow worked in the Cardinals’ scouting department from 2003 until the Astros hired him to be its general manager in December 2011.
     Correa’s charging document identifies Luhnow as “Victim A.”
     “Correa illegally accessed the Astros’ computers in the following way: In December 2011, as Victim A prepared to leave the St. Louis Cardinals and join the Houston Astros, he was directed to turn over his Cardinals-owned laptop to Correa—along with the laptop’s password,” the affidavit states.
     “When Victim A joined the Astros, he re-used a similar (albeit obscure) password for his Astros email and Ground Control accounts. No later than March 2013, Correa began accessing Victim A’s Ground Control and Astros’ email accounts using this variation of the password to Victim A’s Cardinals laptop,” according to the affidavit.
     Correa admitted at his plea hearing that he accessed the database, but claimed he had only done so to ensure the Astros hadn’t swiped data from the Cardinals.
     The Astros disproved Correa’s accusation and U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes denied Correa’s motion to subpoena documents from the Astros in April, the Houston Chronicle reported.
     Hughes addressed Correa’s claims about the Astros alleged misdeeds at Monday’s hearing.
     “There’s been some discussion about what a bunch of awful people the Astros are and all the other things they did,” Hughes said. “Well that could be true. But you’re back to middle school. When the teacher says ‘Did you throw that eraser?’ And you say, ‘Yes. But Bobby did too.’ Well it didn’t work then and it’s not going to work now.”
     Luhnow held the same position as Correa with the Cardinals before the Astros hired him. Luhnow took several Cardinals employees with him to Houston, raising concerns they took data from the Cardinals’ database and used it for the Astros’ benefit, Correa claimed.
     Correa pleaded guilty to accessing Lunhow’s Ground Control account five times from March 2013 to June 2014 and downloading the Astros’ scouting reports for every player eligible for the 2013 Major League Baseball draft, notes on the Astros’ trade talks with other teams and evaluations of college and international players, court records state.
     Hughes also sentenced Correa to two years supervised release after he does his time. Hughes agreed to let Correa surrender within two to six weeks.
     “The reason this is a serious federal crime: It involves computer crime, cyber crime, we in the United States Attorney’s Office look to all crimes that are now being committed by computers to gain an unfair advantage in the business world as well as in public,” Houston U.S. Attorney Ken Magidson told reporters. “It’s a mechanism to steal identities and gain advantages and participate in theft. Obviously this is a very serious offense and the court saw it that way as well.”
     The Cardinals made the playoffs each year of Correa’s tenure, except 2010, and won the World Series in 2011.
     The Cardinals and Astros are practitioners of sabermetrics, a stats-based approach to managing MLB baseball teams. Correa and Lunhow are devotees of the philosophy.
     Sabermetrics became standard for MLB teams after Oakland A’s executive Billy Beane used it to assemble a roster that made the playoffs in 2001, despite a payroll of $33.8 million compared to the league’s top-spending team the New York Yankees, which had a $109.7 million payroll that year and barely defeated the A’s in the playoffs.
     Journalist Michael Lewis documented Beane’s system in his 2003 bestselling book “Moneyball” that was turned into a 2011 movie in which Brad Pitt played Beane.
     MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Chronicle his office is considering taking disciplinary action against the Cardinals, depending on what information it can get from federal prosecutors and investigators.
     The Astros and Cardinals were bitter rivals while they were in the National League Central Division from 1994 to 2012. The Astros moved to the American League West Division in 2013.

%d bloggers like this: