King County tech worker arrested for ‘Office Space’-inspired felony theft
Prosecutors said it was a case of life imitating art, only this time, no TPS reports were involved. Former Zulily employee Ernie Castro has been charged with stealing more than $300,000 from the company in a scheme straight out of the film “Office Space.”
“What’s interesting about this case is when the police looked at it, they saw that the scheme was very similar to the movie ‘Office Space,’” said Casey McNerthney with the King County Prosecutor’s Office. “And for folks who don’t know that movie, that’s where people are frustrated with their job, and put a malicious piece of software into the system to take fractions of a penny and put it into a separate bank account. And that’s what police allege happened here as well.”
McNerthney said Castro worked for a department that handled credit card processing at Zulily. According to charging documents, Castro inserted a line of code that resulted in a kickback of money from certain shipping fees on the website. The money was stolen from the company and customers.
Charging documents said it is not mere speculation that Castro was inspired by the film.
“When investigators looked at his work laptop, they found a document called ‘Office Space Project,’ ” an incredulous McNerthney told KIRO Newsradio. “It was actually called the Office Space Project,” he repeated. “And so not only did the scheme match the movie, it was also acknowledged in the police investigation that they found documents that were actually titled Office Space Project.”
McNerthney said investigators uncovered multiple schemes beyond the skimming of shipping fees. Charging documents claimed Castro heavily discounted expensive items and had them shipped to his home. All told, the ill-gotten gains totaled more than $300,000. In a striking similarity, that’s almost the same amount the characters in “Office Space” took from their employer.
But the real-life Zulily appeared to have better safeguards than the fictional Initech company from the film. According to prosecutors, Zulily auditors quickly caught on to the schemes and alerted the police.
“What happened in the movie was everything works out in the end. Staplers at all,” McNerthney said. He told us this won’t have a happy Hollywood ending. “Unfortunately, in reality, you don’t end up with Jennifer Aniston and a cult classic,” he said. “What you end up with is two counts of felony theft and one count of felony ID theft.”
Castro has been formally charged with the crimes, and is expected to enter a plea later next month.