UPDATED 6/08/11 9:01 a.m.

A hospital employee who posted a woman’s HIV-positive status on Facebook. A fired employee from a computer-service business who sent out false invoices to customers. An ex-boyfriend sending nude photos of an ex-girlfriend to her employer.

These are just three examples of computer-related crimes handled by Honolulu’s Department of Prosecuting Attorney.

Since 2005, the department has seen a “dramatic increase” in computer crimes, handling nearly 100 cases, said deputy prosecutor Chris Van Marter of the department’s White Collar Crime Unit. All but one case ended in conviction. Prior to 2005, the office prosecuted less than 10 computer crimes.

Many of the cases involve incidents similar to the recent hacking of state Rep. Kymberly Pine’s email account and website by Eric Ryan, the chief of staff of Honolulu Councilman Tom Berg.

Ryan appears to have swapped the header image that normally appears on her website and in the body of her emails with an image that said “Kym Pine is a CROOK.”

Pine reported the incidents to police, the Sheriff Division and the FBI. It’s unclear whether criminal charges will be brought.

Civil Beat takes a look at the laws regarding crimes committed with computers.

Two Main Laws

Dave Koga, who handles communications for the prosecutor’s office, says there are “bascially two state laws” regarding computer crimes.

“One involves harassment by impersonation, where someone uses email,” he said. “That’s a misdemeanor. But another is unauthorized computer access, and that is a more serious crime, a felony in the second degree. That’s getting into a computer network somehow, like getting someone’s Gmail address for example, where you can see everything in the inbox, who they wrote to, messages, that sort of stuff.”

The White Collar Crime Unit’s website also lists a third category, computer damage, that is included in Hawaii Revised Statutes:

Computer Fraud
HRS 708-891: Computer fraud in the first degree
HRS 708-891.5: Computer fraud in the second degree

Unauthorized Computer Access
HRS 708-895.5: Unauthorized computer access in the first degree
HRS 708-895.6: Unauthorized computer access in the second degree
HRS 708-895.7: Unauthorized computer access in the third degree

Computer Damage
HRS 708-892: Computer damage in the first degree
HRS 708-892.5: Computer damage in the second degree

Van Marter said one-third of the nearly 100 computer crimes on Oahu in the past five years have been felonies. But they don’t adhere to patterns.

“As you can imagine, the variety of schemes that can be perpetuated via computer are only limited by the imagination of the perpetrator and sometimes technological limitations,” he said. “It’s hard to say fit into certain categories.”

Van Marter ticked off several examples — the ones cited at the beginning of this article.

The hospital case involved a worker at Straub Clinic and Hospital who had access to medical records. She was having a feud with another woman, learned she was diagnosed as HIV-positive and posted the information multiple times on Facebook. Her sentencing in 2009 included jail time.

The computer-service case, which occurred last year, involved a former employee of SuperGeeks who was fired for internal theft. Unbeknownst to the company, he still had access to the company network from his home, where he created fraudulent invoices that were sent to customers. The case represented harassment but also did damage to the company’s reputation because it lost some customers.

The nude photo case was an extortion scheme. The ex-boyfriend threatened to send the photos to his ex-girlfriend’s employer, a school principal and vice principal. She filed a police report, an investigation ensued, the suspect was identified and he was successfully prosecuted.

Sometimes It’s Political

Van Marter pointed to an incident in September 2008 that he described as “political in nature.”

But, because no charges were brought in the case, he could not comment further.

Van Marter may have been referring to the forwarding of racist, sexist and pornographic emails by Rex Johnson, then CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, via a state-issued computer. Johnson, who then-Gov. Linda Lingle demanded resign, was forced to step down that October.

UPDATE Or, perhaps he was referring to another incident where Ryan was alleged to be involved. Inflammatory emails were sent in September 2008 to city employees and the media.

Van Marter also says his office current has three pending computer-crime cases in which the investigations are nearly complete. He said one is of “a political nature” involving “a very high-ranking person.”

Expect those cases to be resolved by August, he said.

In terms of federal cases, meanwhile, Assistant U.S. Attorney Les Osborne said his office has done “some Internet-related crimes” recently.

“The most frequent type relates to solicitation, like, ‘Send me $500 and I will send you a rhinestone broach,’ and then they get a coconut back,” he said. “It’s primarily commercial fraud.”

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