A former Internet company employee has pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston to engaging in foreign economic espionage after he provided trade secrets to an undercover FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer.
Elliot Doxer admitted at a court hearing that he provided confidential information from his employer, Akamai Technologies, Inc., over an 18-month period to someone he thought was working for the Israeli government.
Doxer was arrested in October and charged with wire fraud.
In a plea agreement on Tuesday, federal prosecutors dropped the fraud charge in exchange for Mr. Doxer’s admission that he engaged in economic espionage on behalf of a foreign government.
He faces up to 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. US District Judge Denise Casper set sentencing for Nov. 30.
The case features several unusual twists and turns in the case of a finance department employee who apparently sought to become a real-life 007.
According to court documents, the alleged espionage operation stems from a June 2006 email Doxer sent to the Israeli Consulate in Boston.
“I am a Jewish American who lives in Boston. I know you are always looking for information and I am offering the little I may have,” he wrote. He said he worked in the finance department of a high tech company with clients that included Arab companies in Dubai.
“I would be happy to provide information to you, but the limit of my information is invoicing and customer contact information. All this may not be of any value to you, but I would offer any help I can to help Israel,” Doxer wrote in his email.
The Israelis notified the FBI. Fifteen months after the email, an undercover agent called Doxer at work.
He identified himself as Benjamin. “I am calling because I believe that you and I, I understand that we share a mutual interest in the welfare of our people and our homeland,” the undercover agent said.
“And you may recall that you made an offer, an offer to help us about a year ago or so.”
Doxer: “Ah! Is this who I think it is?”
“I think you know exactly who it is.”
The undercover agent mailed Doxer instructions on how to access a “dead drop,” a secure area where he could receive written messages and leave confidential records. According to federal documents, the “dead drop” was set up in a location where Doxer could be videotaped. During the next 18 months he visited the location 62 times, officials said.
In a written message left at the dead drop, Doxer told the undercover agent that he was willing to travel to Israel as well as support “special and sensitive operations” in the Boston area, if needed. He stressed that he contacted the Israeli Consulate because he wanted to help Israel against its enemies.
Among confidential information from Akamai that Doxer delivered to the dead drop were contracts between the company and the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and several US defense contractors.
By December 2007, Doxer began to ask for money in exchange for the information he was providing. “You neglected to respond to my request for some kind of payment for my services,” he wrote. “I could be fired and am also breaking the law – all I want is some compensation.”
The following month, he wrote to the undercover agent that his primary motive was to help Israel, but that “a few thousand dollars is not unreasonable to me.”
But Doxer apparently had other motives as well. At one point he asked the “Israeli agent” if he could find out anything about his son, who was living abroad with his ex-wife. He asked for pictures and any information.
In a dead drop letter, Doxer said that his ex-wife “is a terrible human being and has caused me tremendous suffering. Not enough bad things can happen to her if you know what I mean.”
The following month, Doxer again mentioned his ex-wife in a letter he left at the dead drop. “The mother of my son is a terrible person and I think you understand. This has caused me tremendous suffering and I wish her ill will.”
The comments about his ex-wife are not included in the statement of facts connected to Doxer’s plea agreement. Those details are contained in a sworn affidavit of the undercover FBI agent that is also part of the court file.
Federal officials said in a statement that no trade secrets or confidential information were jeopardized during the undercover operation. They also thanked the Israeli government for its cooperation during the investigation.