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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Shaq Says Computer Tech Hacked Him

MIAMI (CN) - Shaquille O'Neal claims a computer tech he hired, who hid his criminal past, stole his private emails and sold them for profit, then "threatened to use the electronic communications to harm O'Neal unless O'Neal paid [him] twelve million dollars."

When he refused to submit to these "baseless demands," O'Neal says, the man filed a "baseless" lawsuit against him.

The NBA great sued Shawn Darling in Miami-Dade County Court.

The complaint claims that Darling "admitted under oath that he twice sold O'Neal's personal emails to a well known and highly trafficked Internet website."

O'Neal says he hired Shawn Darling in 2007 as an information technology specialist "who operates at [a] company called Your IT Team LLC."

He says Darling set up computer and sound systems in his house, and that he "gave Darling the names of his email accounts and passwords so that Darling could perform these services. Darling submitted invoices for these services to O'Neal and received payment."

O'Neal says he paid Darling from $75 to $150 an hour, and that over the course of the 2 years Darling worked for him, he came to trust him.

"Unbeknownst to O'Neal, at [the] time the business relationship existed, Darling was a convicted felon, having been sentenced in Wisconsin for bank fraud. Darling concealed his criminal past from O'Neal," the complaint states.

O'Neal says Darling recommended that he set up an Internet server to host an Internet domain to store all of O'Neal's electronic correspondence. He agreed, and Darling created Big32.com for O'Neal.

But rather than getting O'Neal his own server, Darling hosted Big32.com on his own servers, to get access to everything on Big32.com, O'Neal says.

"Darling also used the passwords O'Neal gave Darling as part of his employment by O'Neal outside the scope of Darling's employment relationship to access O'Neal's email accounts without O'Neal's permission," the complaint states.

"Darling never informed O'Neal that he claimed any right or interest in O'Neal's personal electronic communications.

"O'Neal never intended to transfer to Darling any right, title or interest in his personal electronic communications.

"In late 2009, unbeknownst to O'Neal, Darling began marketing O'Neal's electronic communications to third parties, intending to make a personal profit by selling O'Neal's private personal material.

"Ultimately, Darling's scheme worked, as he has admitted under oath that he twice sold O'Neal's personal emails to a well known and highly trafficked Internet website. He also sold similar material on at least one occasion to an individual. Upon information and belief, Darling has sold or offered to sell additional electronic material at issue in this case. O'Neal is presently unaware of further actual sales made by Darling at this time.

"The website to whom Darling sold O'Neal's electronic material has published several articles revealing O'Neal's private personal communications and casting aspersions on his character, causing damage to O'Neal's reputation and marketability. In addition to the damage inflicted upon O'Neal, Darling may have damaged third parties whose private electronic material may be been included among that of O'Neal's electronic material marketed by Darling.

"In August of 2010, Darling's attorney threatened to further use the electronic

communications to harm O'Neal unless O'Neal paid Darling twelve million dollars.

"When O'Neal refused to submit to Darling's baseless demands, Darling retained two additional counsel to make similar demands. Failing to obtain the funds he sought, Darling filed a baseless suit against O'Neal.

"Darling claims that ownership of O'Neal's electronic communication was transferred based solely upon the payment by Darling of approximately $96 to Go Daddy for the

domain name Big32.com as well as partial payments for servers previously used by Darling.

"Darling has admitted under oath that there was no quid pro quo agreement between the parties transferring, as Darling now claims, all of O'Neal's personal electronic material in exchange for use of the domain name and servers."

O'Neal seeks an injunction and damages for fraud, privacy invasion, interception and disclosure of electronic communications, breach of fiduciary duty, and public disclosure of private facts,.

He is represented by Benjamine Reid.

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