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So you want to be a computer criminal?

More what to do if you are busted...


In some cases you will be facing state charges with the possibility of the Feds "picking them up." You may even be able to nudge the Feds into indicting you. This is a tough decision. With the state you will do considerably less time, but will face a tougher crowd and conditions in prison. Granted Federal Prisons can be violent too, but generally as a non-violent white collar criminal you will eventually be placed into an environment with other low security inmates. More on this later. 

Until you are sentenced, you will remain as a "pretrial inmate" in general population with other inmates. Some of the other inmates will be predatorial but the Feds do not tolerate much nonsense. If someone acts up, they'll get thrown in the hole. If they continue to pose a threat to the inmate population, they will be left in segregation (the hole). Occasionally inmates that are at risk or that have been threatened will be placed in segregation. This isn't really to protect the inmate. It is to pr otect the prison from a lawsuit should the inmate get injured.


Naturally when you are first arrested the suits will want to talk to you. First at your residence and, if you appear to be talkative, they will take you back to their offices for an extended chat and a cup of coffee. My advice at this point is tried and true and we've all heard it before: remain silent and ask to speak with an attorney. Regardless of what the situation is, or how you plan to proceed, there is nothing you can say that will help you. Nothing. Even if you know that you are going to cooperate, this is not the time. 

This is obviously a controversial subject, but the fact of the matter is roughly 80% of all defendants eventually confess and implicate others. This trend stems from the extremely long sentences the Feds are handing out these days. Not many people want to do 10 to 20 years to save their buddies' hides when they could be doing 3 to 5. This is a decision each individual needs to make. My only advice would be to save your close friends and family. Anyone else is fair game. In the prison system the blacks have a saying "Getting down first." It's no secret that the first defendant in a conspiracy is usually going to get the best deal. I've even seen situations where the big fish turned in all his little fish and eceived 40% off his sentence.

Incidently, being debriefed or interrogated by the Feds can be an ordeal in itself. I would -highly- reccommend reading up on interrogation techniques ahead of time. Once you know their methods it will be all quite transparent to you and the debriefing goes much more smoothly. 

When you make a deal with the government you're making a deal with the devil himself. If you make any mistakes they will renege on the deal and you'll get nothing. On some occasions the government will trick you into thinking they want you to cooperate when they are not really interested in anything you have to say. They just want you to plead guilty. When you sign the cooperation agreement there are no set promises as to how much of a sentence reduction you will receive. That is to be decided after your testimony, etc. and at the time of sentencing. It's entirely up to the judge. However, the prosecution makes the recommendation and the judge generally goes along with it. In fact, if the prosecution does not motion the court for your "downward departure" the courts' hands are tied and you get no break. 

As you can see, cooperating is a tricky business. Most people, particularly those who have never spent a day in jail, will tell you not to cooperate. "Don't snitch." This is a noble stance to take. However, in some situations it is just plain stupid. Saving someone's ass who would easily do the same to you is a tough call. It's something that needs careful consideration. Like I said, save your friends then do what you have to do to get out of prison and on with your life. 

I'm happy to say that I was able to avoid involving my good friends and a former employer in the massive investigation that surrounded my case. It wasn't easy. I had to walk a fine line. Many of you probably know that I (Agent Steal) went to work for the FBI after I was arrested. I was responsible for teaching several agents about hacking and the culture. What many of you don't know is that I had close FBI ties prior to my arrest. I was involved in hacking for over 15 years and had worked as a comp uter security consultant. That is why I was given that opportunity. It is unlikely however, that we will see many more of these types of arrangements in the future. Our relationship ran afoul, mostly due to their passive negligence and lack of experience in dealing with hackers. The government in general now has their own resources, experience, and undercover agents within the community. They no longer need hackers to show them the ropes or the latest security hole. 

Nevertheless, if you are in the position to tell the Feds something they don't know and help them build a case against someone, you may qualify for a sentence reduction. The typical range is 20% to 70%. Usually it's around 35% to 50%. Sometimes you may find yourself at the end of the prosecutorial food chain and the government will not let you cooperate. Kevin Mitnick would be a good example of this. Even if he wanted to roll over, I doubt it would get him much. He's just too big of a fish, too much media. My final advice in this matter is get the deal in writing before you start cooperating. 

The Feds also like it when you "come clean" and accept responsibility. There is a provision in the Sentencing Guidelines, 3E1.1, that knocks a little bit of time off if you confess to your crime, plead guilty and show remorse. If you go to trial, typically you will not qualify for this "acceptance of responsibility" and your sentence will be longer. 

More what to do when you are busted--->>

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