A Washington state software engineer stole more than $300,000 from the company he worked for in a scheme inspired by the film “Office Space.”
Ermenildo “Ernie” Castro was charged last week with first-degree theft and first-degree identity theft for manipulating programming code, allowing him to change prices and steal shipping fees charged to customers of the e-commerce company Zulily.
Police discovered a file on his work computer titled “Office Space Project” that laid out the scheme. According to court documents, he later admitted to drawing inspiration from the film.
Castro launched the scheme in February 2022 by installing “three types of malicious code in the checkout process,” police detectives stated. He made further modifications in March and April once other employees picked up on discrepancies between the amount customers were billed and charges to their credit cards. Over a five-month period, Castro interfered with more than 30,000 transactions.
In 1999’s “Office Space,” Ron Livingston plays a jaded office worker who, along with two software engineers, launches a revenge plot against their cruel boss. They introduce a virus into the company’s banking system with the intention of accumulating stolen funds, pennies at a time. However, their plan is foiled when they accidentally steal $300,000 at once and all hell breaks loose.
Written and directed by Mike Judge, the film also stars Jennifer Aniston, Stephen Root, David Herman, and Ajay Naidu. The film failed to recoup its budget at the box office but developed a cult following on Comedy Central over the coming years.
Castro is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 26.