Man Jailed Over Sabotage That Led To Virus PPE Delay

By Lauren Berg
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Law360 (October 20, 2020, 10:25 PM EDT) -- A former employee of a medical packaging company was sentenced to one year behind bars for sabotaging business records that delayed the shipment of much-needed personal protective equipment to health care workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday.

Christopher Dobbins, 41, of Duluth, Georgia, was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $221,000 in restitution, prosecutors said. Dobbins pled guilty in July to hacking into and sabotaging his former employer's shipping records after he was fired from the company, according to the DOJ.

"During the height of a worldwide pandemic this defendant disrupted the distribution of critical medical supplies to health care workers on the front lines of the battle," Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of the FBI's office in Atlanta, said in a statement Tuesday. "This swift and efficient result sends a message that anyone who puts the lives of American citizens at risk will be pursued and punished for their egregious behavior."

In early March, Dobbins was fired from a medical device packaging company, whose name is redacted in court documents, where he previously had administrator access to computer systems containing shipping information, according to prosecutors.

Three days after he received his last paycheck from the company, prosecutors said, Dobbins used a fake user account that he had created while still employed at the company to log into the computer system. He then created a second fake user account, which he used to edit about 115,581 shipping records and delete 2,371 more, according to prosecutors.

Those edits and deletions disrupted the company's shipping processes, which delayed delivery of much-needed personal protective equipment, or PPE, including gloves, masks and gowns, to health care providers on the front line of the novel coronavirus pandemic, prosecutors said.

"As businesses worked to get PPE into the hands of those most in need of it, Dobbins chose to hack his former employer and maliciously interrupt that process," U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak said in a statement Tuesday. "His actions caused delays in the delivery of desperately needed equipment in the midst of a worldwide pandemic."

Counsel for Dobbins did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors have been kept busy during the pandemic, taking on crimes from price-gouging to unemployment fraud.

Last month, a New York sneaker salesman who was charged with hoarding and price-gouging personal protective equipment agreed to donate more than $400,000 worth of medical items to hospitals and health care providers as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.

In May, two accused COVID-19 fraudsters denied price-gouging charges stemming from a purported scheme to resell 1 million personal protective masks in New York City at a 50% premium.

The government in the current case is represented by Samir Kaushal of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

Dobbins is represented by Chelsea N. Thomas and Margaret Strickler of Conaway & Strickler PC.

The case is U.S. v. Christopher Dobbins, case number 1:20-cr-00223, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

--Additional reporting by Amanda Ottaway, Julia Arciga and Stewart Bishop. Editing by Peter Rozovsky.

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