A former BP economist was charged with five counts of wire fraud for allegedly trying to extort money from the London-based company whose U.S. operations are based in Houston.
George Koutsostamatis, 28, who worked for BP in Chicago, was indicted last month in Houston for allegedly trying to exchange sensitive corporate documents for Bitcoins. He was arrested in Chicago and brought to Houston where he appeared in federal court Tuesday morning, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston.
His lawyer did not return calls for comment.
Koutsostamatis worked as a refining supply economist in Chicago for BP Corporation North America. He worked on BP’s trading floor which gave him access to BP documents. Koutsostamatis allegedly emailed BP and falsely represented that he had infiltrated the company’s computer network.
Koutsostamatis allegedly demanded payment of 125 Bitcoins, an unregulated form of virtual currency, according to the indictment, and if BP would not pay, he would release personnel information including employee Social Security numbers along with sensitive corporate documents to BP’s competition. On Monday, Bitcoin opened at $19,086.64 per coin, according to price monitor CoinDesk.
BP spokesman Jason Ryan said that the company has no evidence that either BP or employee information was compromised because of the incident.
If convicted, Koutsostamatis faces up to 20 years in prison.
This first appeared on the Houston Chronicle – an Energy Voice content partner. For more click here.