New Jersey Fighting a New Frontier: Cybercrime

New Jersey is aggressive when it comes to fighting cybercrime. It employs two federal prosecutors whose caseload is dedicated to cybercrime, along with a state task force composed of state troopers, investigators and FBI agents. The New Jersey Cybercrime Task Force focuses its efforts on three discrete areas: hacking and viruses, Internet fraud and creation and distribution of child pornography.

New Jersey’s approach to catching cybercriminals has been effective thus far, netting some high profile arrests. Earlier this month, for example, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey unsealed an indictment charging principals of Wiseguy Tickets in an alleged $25 million scheme to hack ticket sellers’ Web sites and buy up tickets, later reselling them at a profit. The Wiseguy indictment is founded on charges of fraud and hacking.

While the case may be popular with disappointed ticket buyers unable to get hot event tickets due to manipulations used by resellers like Wiseguy Tickets, it set off alarms for criminal defense lawyers who represent cybercrime defendants. That’s because the case presents hairsplitting distinctions between behavior that may be illegal and a trick or ruse that some may see as unethical but would not be against the law. A beacon directing authorities bent on fighting cybercrime, the Wiseguy Tickets case may prove equally important for demonstrating the importance of retaining competent counsel when charged with a cybercrime.

Was a Cybercrime Committed?

In the case of Wiseguy Tickets, for example, defendants may have violated the terms of service of the Web sites whose event tickets they swooped in and bought up within moments of release. But defense lawyers question whether charges founded on actions that are essentially contract violations will hold up in a criminal fraud action.

Because ticket sellers like Ticketmaster, one of the sites whose tickets Wiseguy bough out, typically enter exclusivity agreements with venues hosting events, it may be argued that some sort of business interference occurred. But interfering with someone’s exclusive rights to sell typically plays out in a torts case, not the criminal courts. Wiseguys did not steal the tickets in question, but purchased them at face value from the ticket sellers, albeit through somewhat dishonest means.

In the world before computers, had a ticket seller banned a particular customer from his business for scalping and the customer reappeared in a disguise, money in hand, to buy tickets, would the purchase alone have triggered criminal charges?

Ticket sellers assumed tremendous costs to defeat technologies designed to circumvent their rules. The online ticket sellers whose tickets Wiseguys purchased collectively spent more than $1 million to try to thwart buyers using automated software. And they suffered reputation damage when hordes of angry customers found themselves shut out of the ticket lines, their only recourse to buy scalped tickets at elevated prices from sources like Wiseguys for popular events like the Miley Cyrus world tour. It’s no wonder the ticket sellers are angry, but cases like the one involving Wiseguys are no slam dunk for prosecutors facing defendants represented by tech-savvy defense counsel.

Speak to a Lawyer

If you have questions about New Jersey’s approach to cybercrime or if you have been charged with an Internet related crime, it is important to speak to a criminal defense attorney in your area. A lawyer can help explain your legal rights and options based on the circumstances of your case.