Inspired by ‘Office Space’ film, Washington software engineer steals over $300K from employer, prosecutors say



CNN

A Washington man allegedly transferred thousands of dollars from his employer to a personal account after he was inspired by the cult 1999 film “Office Space,” according to a Seattle Police Department arrest report.

Ermenildo Valdez Castro, 28, worked for online retailer Zulily as a software engineer from December 2018 until his dismissal in June, police say.

“Beginning in the spring of 2022, Castro began editing Zulily’s software code in such a way as to enable him to steal from the company,” the police report states.

Police say Castro inserted three types of malicious code into the payment process at Zulily and that using these methods, “he stole a total of $302,278.52 before being fired in June 2022.”

Zulily’s fraud team was able to uncover a pattern of price adjustments on several products sold by the company, which police say were ordered by Castro and shipped to his home, according to the report.

A OneNote document on Castro’s work laptop called “OfficeSpace Project” was found through the investigation, and in it, a “plan to steal shipping costs”, was described, according to the report.

The police report also notes that the plot of the film “Office Space” revolved around engineers who hatched a plan to transfer fractions of pennies to a personal bank account.

Castro was contacted by police and arrested on June 21. On that date, he spoke to detectives after reading his rights. During this interview, he “confirmed that he named his scheme to rob Zulily after the film,” police said.

Castro also told authorities that he placed orders for more than 1,000 items that were shipped to him and that they were part of a “testing process that Zulily was aware of, but he claimed that there was a script that was to be run shortly after that would essentially cancel the order and ensure that the orders would not be processed,” the report said.

“He said test orders should be charged to a personal credit card, hence his changing the item prices, to avoid incurring a large expense on his personal credit card. He said he forgot to run the script; therefore orders shipped. He admitted that he never informed Zulily staff of the orders being delivered,” the police report said.

Castro also told police he threw many things after he was fired.

“When asked why he never returned the items to Zulily, he replied that once they fired him, his opinion was, ‘F**k ’em,'” says the report.

On December 20, Daniel Satterberg, the King County District Attorney, filed first-degree theft and first-degree impersonation charges in Washington Superior Court for King County against Castro.

As of Friday afternoon, the King County Superior Court Clerk’s Office website did not list an attorney for Castro.

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