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February 29th, 2012 COREY PEIN | News Stories
 

Slice Of Fate

The feds target a Portland man in a hacking case after he makes a prank call about pizza.

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Anonymous—the hacker group famous for Guy Fawkes masks and anti-Scientology protests—has raised the stakes. Earlier this month, the group secretly recorded an FBI conference call. On Feb. 27, it published thousands of emails stolen from a private intelligence firm, Stratfor.

The feds are taking the irreverent, politically minded hacktivist group very seriously—as a previously unreported search here in Portland shows.

The U.S. Secret Service executed a series of search warrants last fall targeting a Portland computer engineer, Jeffrey A. Hekmati. Agents searched Hekmati’s apartment and seized his iPhone, computers, USB thumb drives and other devices. 

The grounds for the search? According to the affidavit, Hekmati admitted to making a drunken prank call to one of Anonymous’ targets. The call apparently raised suspicions Hekmati had access to hacked information.

According to court records and Anonymous postings, the hacker group broke into the network of Matrix Group, a Virginia-based Web development firm, on Oct. 21, 2011, and defaced the website of one of its clients, the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Two days later, Matrix Group’s CEO, Joanna Pineda, was chatting with a co-worker using Yahoo Messenger. 

“During this private chat session [Pineda] remarked that she should go into the pizza business, apparently in reference to the amount of pizza that had been consumed due to repair of the web site,” the affidavit says.

Two minutes later, the affidavit says, the CEO got a call on her cellphone. When she answered, the caller said, “I heard you wanted a pizza.”

Agents traced the number to Hekmati, who was interviewed by investigators at work two days later. He told them he had been drunk at a restaurant, checking his Twitter feed, and saw a tweet from Anonymous with Pineda’s cellphone number. 

“Hekmati dialed the number…and made a comment about pizza,” the affidavit says.

The feds’ evidence does not prove Hekmati had any role in the original Anonymous hack of Matrix Group; it’s possible he simply pranked the wrong person at the wrong moment about the wrong topic—pizza. 

Hekmati, 49, declined to talk to WW. He works for engineering firm CH2M Hill’s downtown Portland office and doesn’t appear to have a criminal record. Public records show he drives a BMW but lives in a rented room in a house in Sellwood. 

Pineda, the target of the call, did not respond to a request for an interview; nor did Hekmati’s employer, CH2M Hill. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Hoar declined to talk about the case, except to confirm that no charges have been filed and that the feds are still investigating. 

 
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