St. Paul, Minnesota - A New Mexico man was sentenced Thursday in St. Paul, Minnesota, for directing computer attacks against the websites of his prior employers, business competitors and public services, and felon-in-possession of a firearm charges. Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division; United States Attorney Gregory G. Brooker of the District of Minnesota; and Special Agent in Charge Jill Sanborn of the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Minneapolis Field Office made the announcement.
John Kelsey Gammell was sentenced to serve 180 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright of the District of Minnesota. Restitution to the victims of his computer attacks will be determined at a later date. Gammell pleaded guilty on Jan. 17, to one count of conspiracy to cause intentional damage to a protected computer and two counts of being a felon-in-possession of a firearm.
According to admissions made in connection with his plea, from at least in or about July 2015 through in or about March 2017, Gammell engaged in a campaign of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on websites throughout the United States. A DDoS attack is a malicious attempt to disable or interrupt service to a computer or website, usually by causing large amounts of Internet traffic to be directed to the computer or website. Gammell directed DDoS attacks at a number of victims’ websites, including websites operated by companies he used to work for, companies that declined to hire him, competitors of his business, and websites for law enforcement agencies and courts, among others.
Gammell admitted that he caused DDoS attacks by using computer programs on his own computers, as well as by directing “DDoS-for-hire” companies from which he purchased services to launch the DDoS attacks. Gammell purchased subscriptions to multiple DDoS-for-hire companies, including VDoS, CStress, Inboot, Booter.xyz, and IPStresser. He initiated attacks using these DDoS-for-hire companies against dozens of victims, including but not limited to Washburn Computer Group, the Minnesota State Courts, Dakota County Technical College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, and others. Gammell took a variety of steps to avoid detection and circumvent his victims’ DDoS attack mitigation efforts, such as using IP address anonymization services to mask his identity and location, using cryptocurrency in payment for DDoS-for-hire services, using multiple DDoS-for-hire services at once to amplify his attacks, using spoofed emails to conceal his conduct, and using encryption and drive-cleaning tools to conceal digital evidence of his conduct on his computers.
Gammell, who is a convicted felon, also admitted that he possessed parts for use in the building of AR-15 assault rifles, upper and lower receivers, a pistol grip, a trigger guard, 15 high-capacity magazines, a buttstock, a buffer tube, and 420 rounds of 5.56 x 45mm full metal jacket rifle ammunition in Colorado, where he worked. He further admitted that he possessed a Heckler & Koch P2000 handgun, and a Springfield Armory model 1911-A1, .45 caliber handgun, as well as hundreds of rounds of ammunition in New Mexico, where he resided.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office. Trial Attorney Aaron R. Cooper of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Rank of the District of Minnesota are prosecuting the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the District of Colorado and the District of New Mexico also provided substantial assistance in this matter.