Office Space

Usually, movies are inspired by real events, but sometimes it’s the other way around. A software engineer stole more than $300,000 (€282,816) from his employer. Authorities investigating the crime believe that this was partly inspired by the 1999 comedy ‘Office Space’.

Software engineer, Ermenildo Valdez Castro, worked at the e-commerce company Zulily in Washington State, USA. He intentionally edited their code to divert shipping fees to his personal account, getting away with $260,000 (€245,245) in electronic payments.

Investigators found that more than 30,000 transactions to Mr Castro’s account took place. Apparently, when Zulily started investigating the case, Mr Castro edited the code again, to double-charge customers for shipping, siphoning more money his way.

Nearly 25,000 Zulily customers email addresses were linked to Mr Castro’s personal account during the scheme.

He also manipulated product prices, allowing him to steal more than $40,000 (€37,722) worth in merchandise. He purchased nearly 1,300 items, which included a sofa bed, for only $250 (€236).

He admitted to the police that he edited the code, but also claimed Zulily was aware of it. When inquired about the funds, he said the money was “gone” as it was invested in the stock market, particularly GameStop.

Unlike the movie, where the protagonist avoids justice after an office fire destroys all the evidence, Mr Castro’s scheme was found in a highly detailed document on his work laptop.

The document was aptly named “OfficeSpace project” and was discovered when he returned his laptop after he was fired by the employer. According to court documents, the file also detailed Mr Castro plan to live “off-grid” in the event he was discovered.

Sometimes life imitates art, but when crimes are involved there’s rarely a happy ending. He was charged with two counts of theft and one count of identity theft on 20th December 2022, and is scheduled to be arraigned on 26th January 2023.

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