He lived in Tallahassee, Florida, attended Syracuse University and has a master’s degree in business administration from Florida State University. He also took pleasure in using the internet to ruin the lives of others.
In March 2016, Michael Daniel Rubens was 31-years old when he was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, a $15,000 fine, and $1,550 in restitution. What was his crime? Cyberstalking, unauthorized access to protected computer and aggravated identity theft.
Rubens publicly humiliated dozens of young women by hacking into their online accounts and stealing photographs and other personal information. Rubens’ went as far as creating pornographic images, posting them on social media websites.
Rubens used proxy IP addresses to do most of his dirty work. The investigation included the assistance of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, the Florida State University Police Department, and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office.
During his plea hearing on December 3, 2015, Rubens admitted that between January 2012 and January 2015, he publicly humiliated dozens of young women. His victims included an employee at a local restaurant he frequented, an out-of-town colleague, an acquaintance in his office building, clients of his employer, a former girlfriend and her colleagues, high school classmates and the victims’ relatives or friends.
Acting U.S. Attorney Christopher Canova said,
“This sentence sends an unequivocal message to anyone tempted to use a computer as a weapon to victimize and steal the identities of others: Expect to be prosecuted. And expect to go to prison.”
For one particular woman, Rubens’ laptop contained 470 files with more than 5,000 references to the victim. Rubens’ computer searches focused on finding the victims’ personal identifying information, such as past addresses, family information and other personal data that could be used to answer security questions. As a result of Rubens’ conduct, the victims became afraid to conduct any online activities and often deleted their social media presence entirely. At times, Rubens posed as his victims and corresponded directly with people close to them, affecting their personal relationships.
At his sentencing, Rubens defense counsel argued that unlike bank robbery or drug dealing, cyberstalking was not something people thought as a serious crime. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle for the Northern District of Florida responded, “Perhaps it’s time they learned.”
“This sentence sends an unequivocal message to anyone tempted to use a computer as a weapon to victimize and steal the identities of others: Expect to be prosecuted. And expect to go to prison,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Canova.
“This criminal hacked into social media accounts and tormented women with blackmail and harassment,” said Special Agent in Charge Susan L. McCormick of Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Tampa Field Office. “His crimes demonstrate how predators use the Internet to target innocent victims and ruin lives. With the help of victims and our law enforcement partners, like the Florida State University Police and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, HSI will find these predators and hold them accountable.”
Rubens appealed his sentencing. On June 8, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit entered their decision, upholding Rubens’ sentence. In its decision, the Justices cited the trial court saying that “…the most important factor” that affected its decision was the “nature of the offense and the impact on the victims.” When imposing sentence, the trial court also considered the length of time Rubens engaged in the offenses.
Sources: The Department of Justice (Plea)