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

Inspired by 'Office Space' movie, Washington software engineer steals over $300K from employer, prosecutors say
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A Washington man allegedly transferred thousands of dollars from his employer to a personal account after being inspired by the 1999 cult movie “Office Space,” according to a Seattle Police Department arrest report.

Ermenildo Valdez Castro, 28, worked for 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 a way that would allow him to steal from the company,” the police report says.

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

Zulily’s fraud team was able to uncover a pattern of price adjustments on various products sold by the company, which police say were ordered by Castro and shipped to his residence, according to the report.

During the investigation, a OneNote document was found on Castro’s work laptop called “Project OfficeSpace,” and it described a “scheme to steal shipping rates,” according to the report.

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

Castro was contacted by police and arrested on June 21. On that date he spoke to detectives after they read him his rights. During that interview, he “confirmed that he named his plan to rob Zulily after the movie,” police said.

Castro also told authorities that he placed orders for more than 1,000 items that were shipped to his home and that they were part of a “testing process that Zulily was aware of, but claimed there was a script that would be executed soon after. that would essentially cancel the order and ensure that the orders would not be processed,” the report says.

“He said that test orders would need to be billed to a personal credit card, so he would change the prices of the items to avoid incurring a large expense on his personal credit card. He said that he forgot to run the script; therefore, orders shipped. He admitted that he never notified Zulily staff about the orders being delivered,” the police report says.

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

“When asked why he never returned the items to Zulily, he said that once he was fired, his opinion was: ‘Fuck ’em,’” the report says.

On December 20, King County District Attorney Daniel Satterberg filed charges of first degree robbery and first degree identity theft in Washington Superior Court 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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