Seattle – A 21-year-old Palmdale, California, man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to federal crimes related to his computer hacking scheme and his possession of child pornography found on his digital devices, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. RYAN S. HERNANDEZ, aka Ryan West, who used the online moniker “RyanRocks,” pleaded guilty to a two-count information. HERNANDEZ is scheduled for sentencing by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on April 21, 2020.
According to records filed in the case, in 2016, while still a minor, HERNANDEZ and an associate used a phishing technique to steal credentials of a Nintendo employee, which were exploited to gain access to and download confidential Nintendo files related to its consoles and games. That stolen information, including pre-release information about the anticipated Nintendo Switch console, was leaked to the public. In October 2017, following an investigation into the hack, FBI agents contacted HERNANDEZ and his parents at their California residence. HERNANDEZ promised to stop any further malicious activity and confirmed that he understood the consequences of any future hacking.
Nevertheless, from at least June 2018 to June 2019, HERNANDEZ returned to his malicious activities, hacking into multiple Nintendo servers and stealing confidential information about various popular video games, gaming consoles, and developer tools. HERNANDEZ boasted about his hacking exploits on several online and social media platforms, such as Twitter and Discord, and leaked some of the stolen information to others. HERNANDEZ further operated an online chat forum called “Ryan’s Underground Hangout” in which he and others discussed Nintendo products and shared information about possible Nintendo network vulnerabilities, and on which he shared some of the confidential information he had stolen.
In June 2019, FBI agents searched HERNANDEZ’s home and seized numerous electronic devices, including computers, hard drives, and circumvention devices used to access pirated video games and software. On those devices, they discovered thousands of confidential Nintendo files. Forensic analysis of his devices also revealed that HERNANDEZ had used the internet to collect more than one thousand videos and images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, stored and sorted in a folder directory he labeled “Bad Stuff.”
Under the terms of the plea agreement, prosecutors and defense attorneys, will recommend three years in prison. However, the ultimate sentence is up to the judge and could be up to the statutory maximums of 5 years in prison for computer fraud and abuse, and 20 years in prison for possession of child pornography.
HERNANDEZ has agreed to pay $259,323 in restitution to Nintendo for the remediation costs caused by his conduct. Under the terms of the plea agreement, HERNANDEZ also will be required to register as a sex offender following his conviction.
The case was investigated by the FBI, Seattle Cyber Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Steven Masada.