back to article Software engineer accused of stealing $300k from employer was 'inspired by Office Space'

Theft charges brought against a Washington state software engineer claim he took inspiration from the cult movie Office Space when he allegedly diddled his former employer out of more than $300,000. Remarkably, $300,000 is the same amount stolen from fictional software company Initech overnight in director Mike Judge's paean …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two thoughts...

    1) He didn't even delete his plans for the crime from his work laptop before returning it?

    2) Imagine if he'd put this much effort and creativity into his actual job. Maybe he'd have been promoted and actually earned his GameStop investment money.

    1. Dabooka

      Re: Two thoughts...

      Again, we are not dealing with a criminal mastermind here are we?!

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Two thoughts...

      I wondered that about not deleting his plans, but I suspect that if there was any hint of a well managed IT infrastructure in place, he lost access to the laptop when his login account was disabled. This would depend on the laptop getting notified of the account closure which is one potentially problematic hurdle. However if he did delete the file but didn't know about VSS copies, which are not uncommon because they are very useful, just no longer enabled by default, then there would have been retained copies of such files easily available.

      As for being promoted and getting more money... the chances of this happening are? Probably not a lot.

  2. TekGuruNull

    This is what happens when you ask status on those TPS reports just one too many times...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Zulily? Really

    I just need to take a moment to sympathize with any engineer working for a ecommerce company with a post-dotcom name like that. How can any employee NOT lose their grip on reality when the company is a living re-enactment of the very cringe worthy tropes that fuel Hollywood?

    That company sounds like a third string knockoff of Hooli from Silicon Valley.

    1. sofaspud

      Re: Zulily? Really

      They were a client of a company I previously worked for, and I was dispatched to handle a bunch of technical setup and training to their HQ. They were, at the time, exactly as cringey as the name implies.

      Honestly I'm kind of surprised they're still around.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Zulily? Really

        They're hugely popular among certain of my acquaintances. Perhaps even more so than Amazon. I've never bothered to find out why.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm going to need you to come in to jail this weekend. Mmmmm k

    1. Halfmad

      Re: I'm going to need you to come in to jail this weekend. Mmmmm k

      It's not that I don't want to go to jail, I just ask myself, what's in it for me you know?

      *puts feet up on desk*

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. martinusher Silver badge

    Hot Millions?

    The movie "Hot Millions" was made in 1968 and presaged a number of IT trends we think as modern. Its got social engineering, computer fraud and some peculiar hardware quirks exploited by the cleaning staff as part of the plot. Its a 60s comedy but definitely worth watching.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Hot Millions?

      Huh. I think I missed that one somehow. Solid cast, too. I'll have to look for it.

  7. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Did he expect to be promoted?

  8. gernblander

    The best Register article of 2023!!

    This is too funny! I'm already voting this as the best Register article for all of 2023. Nothing will top this!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Note to self, when defrauding future employers ensure documentation for scheme is not stored on work laptop in folder called 'Fraud Scheme' :/

    1. Mark 65

      ....and be more patient and make the theft more subtle - you may then get away with it.

      1. Sherrie Ludwig

        ....and be more patient and make the theft more subtle - you may then get away with it.

        The dumb ones get caught. The smart ones are still doing whatever

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Unfortunately, or possibly more likely fortunately, people get greedy and fail to stop. If he'd stopped early on and reverted the code to non-abusive and worked through logs and logs to show diligence on tracking down something that he knew was no longer there, he'd probably have gotten away with it. But just like gamblers who can't stop even though they are losing everything, the compulsion for "just one more" strikes.

        Integrity and accountability is why I always ensure that audit logging is enabled and not tinkerable with as far as ever possible, even by me. That way if or when I have to force access onto sensitive data there is a log and I know that such as access is recorded, which is peace of mind in a lot of ways.

  10. that one in the corner Silver badge

    wrote a software code

    "A" software code? Writing "a" replacement code?

    No doubt he smashed up a printer using "a" hardware[1].

    [1] of course not, you use "an" hardware, as in "I used an hardware to run a software".

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge


      Yeah, but it's a direct quote, and not even really worth a [sic]. Some places, esp government, use 'code' in a way that others generally wouldn't.

      Makes my eye twitch when I see scientists say they've written new codes for their latest supercomputer.


  11. Alan Birtles

    Code review is for wimps

    Was there no code review for a critical payment processing part of their application?

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Code review is for wimps

      Maybe he was writing everything in Rust so the management "knew" it was safe code without the risk of everything that happened.

      This reminds me of a case I read about 60 years ago where a banker was calculating everyone's interest payments - the math was done in pennies but the interest payments were limited to whole pennies so he coded it to transfer all fractions to his account in the bank.

      Maybe the code world has changed but this story is good evidence that what people do hasn't changed at all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Code review is for wimps

        Wasn't this part of the plot for the Superman film with Richard Pryor?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Code review is for wimps

          Also mentioned in office space as where the protagonist got the idea from

        2. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: Code review is for wimps

          Also referenced several times in Office Space xD (I'm rewatching for nth time)

      2. Contrex

        Re: Code review is for wimps

        I also read about such a case, and that it was detected when bank staff wanted to demo a search function to some visitors and chose to see the first and last accounts (by some metric) and the thief had created his fractional-cents-dump account to be the last one, and the transactions looked distinctly odd.

  12. Black Label1
    Black Helicopters

    Advice to security engineers

    Please conduct only legitimate pentesting with a contract signed, instead of pure hacking-for-profit.

    Make sure to add some clauses that shields you from being prosecuted.

    This avoids all sort of problems, legally speaking.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Advice to security engineers

      And don't leave behind a note entitled "EvilPlan" that goes into juicy detail. That's just stupid. If you're going to try ripping off a couple of hundred grand, memorise the damn plan!

      1. Black Label1
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Advice to security engineers

        If the guy was smart, the 300k was a bridge and the real evilplan is well concealed, encrypted or not finished yet.

  13. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    What he did was a crime...

    ... don't get me wrong!

    And yet. And YET! In the name of all of us for whom Office Space was more akin to a heart-wrenching and soul-crushing documentary of our lives, I salute you!

  14. Marty McFly Silver badge

    Our hero forgot....

    The winner in Office Space is Milton Waddams. And the protagonist ended up doing manual labor.

    1. gotes

      Re: Our hero forgot....

      I wouldn't be so sure of Milton's success. His stapler was likely destroyed in the fire.

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Our hero forgot....

      ...back when it might have been possible to earn a living wage through manual labor.

      This is what makes Office Space a classic, IMHO. It recalls a halcyon time when jobs were plentiful and paid well and living was relatively cheap. Everyone from well paid programmer to bar waitress could afford to live on just the one job, had time off and could even afford medical care (therapy).

      MAGA hearkens back a few decades before that, to a fictitious 1950s, but this movie has potential. (I for my sins remember both the 50s and the 90s and they weren't quite like they're imagined ...... but why ruin the illusion?)

      1. Marty McFly Silver badge

        Re: Our hero forgot....

        >...back when it might have been possible to earn a living wage through manual labor.

        My nephew is 22 years old. He got his welding certification in his senior high school year and works in that industry. He makes a helluva lot of money, especially compared to his high school classmates who are just getting their first jobs, but they have college degrees.

        He has four years work experience and knows how to get stuff done. They only know that "Venti" means "large".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Our hero forgot....

          Venti literally means "twenty".

          You must have a college degree.

          1. Marty McFly Silver badge

            Re: Our hero forgot....

            Not according to your local Starbucks barista....

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Our hero forgot....

              Yeah, like I said. College.

              A lot of Starbucks baristas have worthless degrees. It's why they're there.

  15. AndrueC Silver badge

    When asked during police interview why he did not return the 1,000-plus items he ordered after being sacked, it is claimed he said of Zulily: "Fuck 'em."

    Pithy. I like it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      For me to fully understand your comment I need to ask...are you Chris Eubank?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Think it's been long enough - I'm going to have to get round to watch this film!

    Limey here - is it on Prime or Netflix?

    1. jdh2828
  17. Mattjimf

    Leaves Amazon Prime in 3 day apparently, may have to pay to watch it after then.

  18. Fortycoats

    Bought stock in GameStop?

    You know what he could have done with that money? Two chicks at the same time!

    Now where's the red stapler icon?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was it worth it?

    Let's say a well paid techie makes £75k year for 25 years, stuffs 15% into investments especially ones with good tax relief like pensions, with 7% return you could easily be looking at £750,000 or more in funds not including any other equity like property that almost always goes up in value! FFS! Now all he's made is 300k in fraudulent earnings, lost it all and in job interviews from now on records will show he's done time for serious fraud in a tech company!

    I guess he thought it was a quick way to riches and no one would notice! Fricking moron!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Was it worth it?

      Clearly, he wasn't one of these mythical well paid techies.

  20. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

    Missing details in this article

    There's no mention of whether his stapler was returned to him

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Missing details in this article

      Do not mess with the staplers.

      Anon: When I'm next in the office I'm going to count my stapler collection and make sure that they are all there. [please don't ask where the staplers came from]

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