Ethan C. Fey, a longtime former employee of Churchill Downs and its United Tote subsidiary, on Jan. 25 was sentenced to 15 months in jail in United States District Court in Louisville, Ky. In October, Fey pleaded guilty to one count of Hobbs Act extortion and one count of possession of unauthorized devices.
According to the Oct. 23 plea agreement, which does not specifically name United Tote or Churchill Downs Inc. as the victim in the extortion attempt: “The defendant, Ethan C. Fey, worked at a company that operated in interstate commerce and had customers around the nation until approximately June 8, 2016, when the company terminated his employment. Prior to leaving the company, defendant Fey copied a report containing personal information, including dates of birth and Social Security numbers of thousands of the company's customers onto a thumb drive. On June 5, 2017, defendant sent an anonymous email to a number of employees of the company. He stated the company's computer system had been hacked and customer information had been taken. He threatened to sell the customer information on the black market, unless the company paid him 50 bitcoins, which at the time, was worth approximately $150,000. Shortly after Fey sent the email, prior to the company making any payments, Fey was approached by the FBI and he confessed.”
Bitcoins are a digital currency described by Bloomberg as the “currency of choice for hacker blackmailers who steal huge amounts of sensitive data.”
A computer and thumb drive allegedly containing the customer information have been seized and destroyed, according to court records. Fey had worked for Churchill Downs companies since 2004, according to his Linked In profile page.
Through his attorney, Fey has requested a surrender date after May 15 because of extenuating family circumstances. Judge David J. Hale granted a prior request that Fey be incarcerated as close as possible to his home in Louisville.
John Asher, a spokesperson for Churchill Downs, which also owns the TwinSpires advance deposit wagering platform, told the Louisville Courier-Journal: “We can assure our customers that no personal information of any kind has been publicly disclosed or misused.”
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