Former DHS employees sentenced for plot to steal government software, databases

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The trio wanted to to build a commercial software product that would have been sold to government agencies.

Three former DHS employees were sentenced on Friday for their roles in a conspiracy to steal proprietary U.S. software and law enforcement databases for use in a commercial venture.

Charles K. Edwards, the former acting inspector general of the DHS Office of Inspector General, was sentenced to one year and six months in prison, having pleaded guilty in January 2022 to charges alleging government property theft and intent to defraud the U.S. Those charges included theft of Microsoft product activation keys valued at $350,000.

Sonal Patel, formerly enterprise applications branch chief in the IT Division at DHS-OIG, pleaded guilty in April 2019 conspiracy to commit government property theft. He was sentenced on Friday to two years probation. Murali Y. Venkata, a former IT specialist at DHS-OIG was handed four months of prison time. He was convicted in April 2022 for his role in the conspiracy for charges including wire fraud and records destruction.

All three also worked in the Postal Service’s OIG.

Between 2014 and 2017, the trio sought to use the stolen software and databases to create a commercial case management system that would have been sold to government agencies. The data caches held sensitive law enforcement information, as well as the personally identifiable information of over 200,000 federal employees from the oversight offices of DHS and USPS.

Edwards left his post as acting IG in December 2013 amid Senate investigations that determined he was collaborating with senior U.S. officials that he should have been independently overseeing. Days before he could testify about the investigation, he was transferred to DHS’s Science and Technology office, according to reporting in the Washington Post, where prosecutors say he leveraged relationships with Patel and Venkata to carry out the scheme.