Martin Gottesfeld's hands apparently weren't as nimble with a sailboat's jib and spinnaker as they were with his keyboard. The 31-year-old is suspected of masterminding a high-profile hacking of a Massachusetts medical center's computer system.
When those criminal allegations emerged, he tried to flee, police say. He and his wife were traveling in a sailboat and were close to the coast of Cuba this week when they ran into trouble. A distress call was answered by a Disney cruise ship, and the rescue tipped off the feds to Gottesfeld's whereabouts.
The alleged hacker's strange sea journey came to an end this morning, when federal agents arrested him after the cruise ship returned to PortMiami.
According to an affidavit released by the Boston State Attorney's Office, Gottesfeld was an activist hacker affiliated with the group Anonymous. Gottesfeld is believed to be behind a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that targeted the websites of two medical centers, a treatment center, and a children's hospital in Massachusetts. The attacks brought down the websites, but further actions, including trying to hack into email and servers, were unsuccessful. The hospital had to shut down portions of its network to ensure that patients' medical records were not compromised. The cost related to the attacks totaled more than $300,000.
The FBI believes that Gottesfeld was the organizer of the attack and that he posted a video on YouTube explaining the group's rationale. That video, though not confirmed in the affidavit, is almost certainly this one:
The case mentioned in the video, that of teenager Justina Pelletier, is a complicated affair. The girl suffers from a rare medical condition but was taken into custody by the state of Massachusetts after staff at a hospital believed that her parents were abusing her by interfering with her proper medical care. The action set off a messy 16-month custody battle during which Pelletier was not allowed to see her family and was kept in a psychiatric unit.
Pelletier's case is mentioned only as a "high-profile child custody" case in the affidavit.
Gottesfeld had previously been interviewed by the FBI and admitted to being behind the YouTube video but claimed he wasn't behind the attack.
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For the past four weeks, however, Gottesfeld's friends, family, and employers hadn't heard form him. A wellness check performed by police in Massachusetts revealed an empty apartment. Gottesfeld's wife was also missing.
The two turned up this week in the Caribbean. When their sailboat became disabled, they sent out a distress call. The Disney cruise ship answered, and his whereabouts were reported to the FBI. Agents were waiting to arrest him this morning.
Luggage and three laptop computers were aboard the sailboat as well.
Gottesfeld has been charged with conspiracy. His destination on the sailboat is still unclear.