Prosecutors in Seattle filed charges this week against a software engineer who is accused of a theft scheme that swiped approximately $300,000 from his employer.
Ermenildo Castro, 28, of Tacoma, allegedly told detectives that he was inspired by the 90’s movie "Office Space" when he devised a plan to divert customer fees from his employer, Zulily.com, into his own bank accounts.
According to court documents, Castro wrote software code that manipulated the online retailer’s checkout page to send the shipping fees into his own account. The charges allege Castro netted $260,000 in stolen shipping fees.
Seattle police detectives said Castro also used his position as a software engineer to manipulate prices on Zulily to purchase approximately $41,000 in merchandise for ‘pennies on the dollar’.
According to police, the company’s cybersecurity staff found a document on Castro’s laptop titled ‘OfficeSpace project’, which outlined Castro’s scheme to ‘cleanup evidence’ by manipulating audit logs and disabling alarm logging. The theft began in February and by March the company had identified discrepancies in the shipping fees being charged to customers, an SPD report states.
Castro was part of the team assigned to investigate the discrepancies in shipping fees, according to the report.
Zulily investigators eventually caught on to Castro’s scheme and went to his house in Tacoma where they found boxes of merchandise piled up outside the front door and driveway, the report states. In total, Zulily’s team said Castro had sent over 1,000 items sent to his house.
In an interview with police, Castro claimed the orders that came to his house were the result of a mistake during a test and he forgot to return the items and did not notify Zulily staff about the orders, the report states.
“When asked why he never returned the items to Zulily, he said that once they fired him his opinion was, ‘f--- ‘em’,” the police report states.
Seattle police detectives wrote a narrative explaining how Castro’s alleged scheme related to the movie "Office Space," including the plot outline on IMDB.com.
“In the Initech office, the insecure Peter Gibbons hates his job. His best friends are two software engineers Michael Bolton and Samir Nagheenanajar, that also hate Initech. When he discovers that Michael and Samir will be downsized, they decide to plant a virus in the banking system to embezzle fraction of cents on each financial operation into Peter’s account. However[,] Michael commits a mistake in the software on the decimal place and they siphon off over $300,000. The desperate trio tries to fix the problem, return the money and avoid going to prison.”
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged Castro with two counts of theft in the first degree and one count of identity theft in the first degree.