Inspired by ‘Office Space’ film, Washington software engineer steals over $300K from employer, prosecutors say

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CNN
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A Washington man allegedly transferred thousands of dollars from his employer into a personal account after being inspired by the 1999 cult movie “Office Space,” according to an arrest report by the Seattle Police Department.

Ermenildo Valdez Castro, 28, worked for the online retailer Zulily as a software engineer from December 2018 until he was fired in June, according to police.

“Starting in the spring of 2022, Castro began editing Zulily’s software code in ways that allowed him to steal from the company,” the police report said.

Police said Castro inserted three types of malicious code in the checkout process at Zulily and by using those methods, “stole a combined $302,278.52 before he was terminated in June 2022.”

Zulily’s fraud team was able to discover a pattern of price adjustments on several products that were sold by the company, which police said were ordered by Castro and shipped to his residence, the report said.

A OneNote document on Castro’s work laptop called “OfficeSpace Project” was found through the investigation, and in it, a “scheme to steal shipping fees,” was outlined, according to the report.

The police report also notes the plot of the movie “Office Space” revolved around engineers who produced a plan to move fractions of cents into a personal bank account.

Castro was contacted by police and arrested on June 21. On that date he spoke with detectives after being read his rights. During that interview he “confirmed that he named his scheme to steal from Zulily after the movie,” police said.

Castro also told authorities he placed orders for over 1,000 items that were shipped to his house, and that they were part of a “testing process that Zulily was aware about, but he claimed that there was a script that was to be run shortly thereafter that would essentially cancel the order and ensure the orders did not process,” the report said.

“He said the test orders would have to be billed to a personal credit card, thus his changing of the items’ prices, as to avoid incurring a large expense on his personal credit card. He said he forgot to run the script; therefore, the orders shipped. He admitted that he did not ever notify Zulily staff of the orders being delivered,” the police report said.

Castro also told police he threw many of the items away once he was fired.

“When asked why he never returned the items to Zulily, he said that once they fired him, his opinion was, ‘F**k ‘em,’” the report said.

On December 20, Daniel Satterberg, the prosecuting attorney for King County, filed charges of theft in the first degree and identity theft in the first degree in the Superior Court of Washington for King County against Castro.

As of Friday afternoon, the King County Superior Court Clerk’s Office website did not list an attorney for Castro.

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