An unemployed engineer who allegedly cut cable and phone lines owned by Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. in retaliation for his lack of work has signed a plea agreement to extortion charges in return for a lighter sentence.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston, the suspect, Danny M. Kelly of Chemsford, Mass., agreed to plead guilty to one count of extortion. The July 18 plea arrangement is detailed in documents provided by the office of Michael J. Sullivan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. A spokesman in that office said Kelly still needs to formally enter the plea before the judge.
Kelly was charged with the extortion count July 11 in federal court.
According to authorities, Kelly cut a Verizon cable in his hometown on Nov. 8, 2004. Then he sent an anonymous letter to Comcast Corp.'s headquarters in Philadelphia, explaining how he had damaged the telco's plant and threatening to do the same to Comcast's property.
The vandal demanded Comcast set up a bank account in his name, into which $10,000 was to be deposited monthly to ensure that Kelly would do no more damage.
The letters asserted big American corporations are responsible for Kelly's unemployment because they favor foreign engineers. Kelly also claimed the companies indirectly took the engineer's intellectual property.
When Comcast didn't meet his demands, Kelly returned to vandalism, according to the U.S. District Attorney. Between Jan. 5 and 16, he cut two Comcast communications cables, 13 Verizon cables and two owned by AT& T Corp. and MCI Corp.
Besides his hometown, Kelly cut cables in Marlborough, Westford, Billerica and Peabody, interrupting phone, Internet and cable service to thousands, according to investigators. The damage cost the affected companies an estimated $300,000.
After the January cuts, he made extortion demands similar to those sent to Comcast, this time targeting Verizon. Both companies followed the vandal's directions and set up private Web pages in order to attempt to talk to Kelly, but according to investigators, neither paid the ransom demands. Local police and the FBI identified and arrested him.
Kelly faces a maximum of two years in prison, a year of supervised release, a $250,000 fine, a $100 special assessment plus other restitution. But it will be up to a judge to mete out his punishment.
Kelly's plea does not protect him from civil liability, according to the plea document.