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L.A. Man Indicted in DirecTV Secrets Case

January 18, 2003|Debora Vrana | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles man has been indicted on three felony counts of theft of trade secrets and could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted on charges of stealing sensitive information belonging to DirecTV Inc., the nation's largest satellite-TV provider.

The federal grand jury indictment, handed up in Los Angeles on Thursday, charges that Igor Serebryany, 19, stole DirecTV's trade secrets while he was working temporarily in the Los Angeles law offices of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, DirecTV's legal counsel in a trade dispute.

"Igor is just a regular college kid. He's just a child," said Nina Marino, the Beverly Hills attorney representing Serebryany, a student at the University of Chicago. "What is going on currently is so beyond his understanding. We look forward to reviewing the evidence in this case."

Serebryany is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 27. Each of the three counts he is charged with carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

"I think this indictment sends two messages," said Assistant U.S. Atty. James W. Spertus. "One, people who commit this kind of theft will be prosecuted. Secondly, if hackers who have this information distribute it further, they will be prosecuted."

Serebryany is accused of stealing blueprints of DirecTV's latest P4 access card technology, a credit-card-like device that prevents free access to digital television signals by the company's 11 million subscribers.

Information about the technology, which cost DirecTV about $25 million to develop, allegedly was distributed by Serebryany to Internet sites that cater to hackers, who apparently were unable to crack the code.

DirecTV is a division of El Segundo-based Hughes Electronics Corp.

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