N.J. Mayor, Son Accused of Hacking Political Web Site

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The mayor of West New York, N.J., and his son were arrested yesterday and accused of hacking into an e-mail account and Web site connected to a movement to recall the mayor.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey, Felix Roque, 55, and Joseph Roque, 22, are charged with gaining unauthorized access to computers in furtherance of causing damage to protected computers; causing damage to protected computers; and conspiracy to commit those crimes.

"Roque and his son were both released on a $100,000 bail," writes SecurityNewsDaily's Matt Liebowitz. "Each faces up to 11 years in prison and $750,000 in fines if convicted of all three charges. A preliminary hearing for both men has been scheduled for June 4."

The criminal complaint [PDF file] states that the Web site RecallRoque.com was established in early February 2012 to criticize Mayor Felix Roque. By February 8, 2012, Joseph Roque had allegedly hacked into online accounts connected to the site, and used that access to disable it.

"Joseph Roque allegedly performed Google searches using terms such as 'hacking a Go Daddy Site' and 'recallroque log-in' and the quite peculiar 'html hacking tutorial,'" writes CNET News' Chris Matyszczyk. "From these humble beginnings, the younger Roque allegedly managed to re-set the e-mail password for the account that controlled the RecallRoque site. He then allegedly proceeded to cancel the domain name."

"Over the course of the following days, Mayor Roque allegedly used the information gathered by his son to call or email the website's contributors with the intention of intimidating them," writes Computerworld's Lucian Constantin. "During a meeting with the website's owner on Feb. 17, which was being recorded by the latter at the request of law enforcement, Mayor Roque attempted to conceal the hacking activity by suggesting that he had a friend at the CIA who provided him with the information."

"This case illustrates two primary concerns of law enforcement, the violation of public trust and cyber intrusion," FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward said in a statement. "In this instance, an elected official conspired to hack into a website and e-mail account. It's incredibly disappointing that resources have to be diverted from protecting the US against cyber intrusions targeting critical infrastructure, federally funded research and military technology, to address a public official intruding into computer systems to further a political agenda."

"Roque is the second New Jersey mayor to be charged with a federal crime in the past month," notes Bloomberg's Don Jeffrey. "Hamilton Township Mayor John Bencivengo, a Republican, was accused of participating in an extortion-bribery scheme in a criminal complaint filed April 25 in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey."