SAN DIEGO (CN) – A former student at Cal State San Marcos was sentenced Monday to a year in prison for stealing the identities of more than 700 fellow students to rig campus elections and elect himself president.
Matthew Weaver, 22, of Huntington Beach pleaded guilty in March to wire fraud, identity theft and unauthorized access of a computer, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement announcing his sentence.
He admitted he used keyloggers to steal 745 students’ passwords, and then voted for himself about 630 times – and for friends who were also on the ballot.
According to the U.S. attorney’s statement: “During the hearing, U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns said he was troubled by the fact that Weaver – even after his arrest – attempted to frame other CSU-SM students for the election irregularities and then solicited news media coverage, contending he’d been falsely accused.
“Falsely blaming others when Weaver knew he was responsible for the crime is ‘the phenomenal misjudgment I just can’t get around,’ the judge told Weaver. ‘That’s what bothers me more than the original rigging’ of the election.
“Judge Burns noted that the original crime might have been perceived as less egregious – even a youthful prank – except for the cover-up. ‘He’s on fire for this crime and then he pours gasoline on it.'”
Weaver voted enthusiastically and often from a computer on campus. He was nabbed during the final hour of voting when network administrators saw “unusual voting activity” from a campus computer. Weaver was cutting and pasting student usernames and passwords into the voting system.
He was caught red-handed, according to the U.S. attorney: “Shortly after the election closed at 5 p.m., CSU-SM network administrators asked CSU-SM police officer Brian McCauley to go to the suspicious computer in Academic Hall 204. There, Officer McCauley found Weaver sitting at the computer and noted that Weaver was using the only computer in the lab with a screen not visible to the rest of the room.
“Weaver, after seeing McCauley, who was in uniform, began shutting down the campus computer. McCauley and Weaver then had a short conversation, during which Weaver said he was working on a school project, but refused to provide details. McCauley then arrested Weaver and seized his bag, which contained six keyloggers as well as other evidence of the crimes.”
The U.S. attorney’s statement quoted from a sentencing memorandum that was unsympathetic to the young vote thief: “‘He wanted power through the $300,000 budget and respect through his status as CSU-SM’s student body president. But he did not want to earn it, he wanted to steal it,'” prosecutor Sabrina Feve wrote in the sentencing memorandum.
“‘Weaver determinedly and repeatedly spied on his classmates, stole their passwords, read their secrets, and usurped their votes – and he did it with his eyes wide open,’ the memorandum said. ‘Weaver actually researched the legality of his scheme beforehand … and then, when he knew it was completely illegal, he researched how to blame someone else.'”
Cal State San Marcos opened in 1989 as the 20th campus of the California State system. It is believed to be the first state university campus to open in a shopping mall. The college now has a 304-acre campus attended by more than 10,000 students, in North San Diego County.
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