A former St. Louis Cardinals director for baseball development, Chris Correa, pleaded guilty to five counts of unauthorized access to protected information on the Houston Astros, including scouting and injury reports, trade discussions and draft rankings.
According to the Department of Justice, Correa, 35, admitted that from March 2013 through at least March 2014, when he was in charge of scouting for the Cardinals, he illicitly accessed the Astros' online database, called Ground Control, as well as email accounts of people in the Astros organization to obtain proprietary data.
Each count carries a maximum possible sentence of five years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.
A Justice Department statement said:
"In one instance, Correa was able to obtain an Astros employee's password because that employee has previously been employed by the Cardinals. When he left the Cardinals organization, the employee had to turn over his Cardinals-owned laptop to Correa along with the laptop's password. Having that information, Correa was able to access the now-Astros employee's Ground Control and e-mail accounts using a variation of the password he used while with the Cardinals."
Federal investigators began looking into a possible breach this summer. It became apparent that the hack may have had something to do with the Cardinals' familiarity with a former executive, Jeff Luhnow, who had gone to work for the Astros.
"Luhnow became the Astros' general manager in late 2011; prior to that, he was a vice president in the Cardinals organization, focusing on evaluating players. A report Tuesday by The New York Times says investigators suspect the Cardinals broke into the Astros' network of special databases where the team kept 'discussions about trades, proprietary statistics and scouting reports.'
"The information compiled by Luhnow could be particularly valuable — he's a former business consultant whose analytical approach was credited with modernizing how the Cardinals evaluated talent. Despite being a divisive figure, he rose to lead the team's scouting department."
"Unauthorized computer intrusion is not to be taken lightly," U.S. attorney Kenneth Magidson said in the DOJ statement. "Whether it's preserving the sanctity of America's pastime or protecting trade secrets, those that unlawfully gain proprietary information by accessing computers without authorization must be held accountable for their illegal actions."