(Newsroom America) -- The mayor of West New York, New Jersey and his son have been arrested for allegedly hacking into an e-mail account and website associated with a movement to recall the mayor, according to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.
Felix Roque, 55, of Hudson County, and Joseph Roque, 22, of Passaic County, are charged by complaint with gaining unauthorized access to computers in furtherance of causing damage to protected computers; causing damage to protected computers; and conspiracy to commit those crimes.
Felix and Joseph Roque were scheduled to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark S. Falk in Newark federal court.
According to the criminal complaint unsealed today, in early February 2012, a Hudson County resident and public official anonymously established and moderated an Internet website, www.recallroque.com, to post commentary and criticism of Mayor Felix Roque and his administration.
On February 6, Mayor Roque and his son, Joseph Roque, schemed to hack into and take down the website and to identify, intimidate, and harass those who operated and were associated with the website.
By the late afternoon of February 8, 2012, Joseph Roque had successfully hacked into various online accounts used in connection with the recall website. Joseph Roque then used that access to disable the website. Mayor Roque harassed and attempted to intimidate several individuals whom he had learned were associated with the recall website.
"In this case, the elected leader of West New York and his son allegedly hacked into computers to intimidate constituents who were simply using the Internet to exercise their Constitutional rights to criticize the government," U.S. Attorney Fishman said.
"We will continue to investigate and prosecute those who illegally hack into computers and disable websites with the goal of suppressing the exercise of that right."
“This case illustrates two primary concerns of law enforcement, the violation of public trust and cyber intrusion,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward said.
"In this instance, an elected official conspired to hack into a website and e-mail account. It’s incredibly disappointing that resources have to be diverted from protecting the U.S. against cyber intrusions targeting critical infrastructure, federally funded research, and military technology to address a public official intruding into computer systems to further a political agenda."
The conspiracy charge and the charge of gaining unauthorized access to a computer in furtherance of causing damage to protected computers are each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of causing damage to protected computers carries a maximum potential penalty of one year in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.