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Accused Houston hacker free on bond

By BECKY PURSER - bpurser@macon.com

June 1, 2018, update: Christopher Stewart Wheeler has no convictions of any criminal offense after successfully completing first offender probation following a guilty plea to misdemeanor charges in which adjudication of guilt was withheld, according to a court order sealing the records. Wheeler provided a copy of the order to The Telegraph.

PERRY — A 21-year-old computer consultant accused of hacking into Houston Healthcare’s database is free on a $10,000 conditional bond.

Christopher Stewart Wheeler of Warner Robins, who is charged with one count of theft by taking, four counts of computer theft and five counts of computer invasion of privacy, was granted a conditional bond late Thursday morning in Houston County Superior Court.

Wheeler was ordered by Judge Edward D. Lukemire to have no access to computers or cell phones or contact with Houston Healthcare. Wheeler posted bond early Thursday afternoon.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Amy Smith opposed bond, arguing Wheeler was a risk to re-offend in that Houston Healthcare has no way of knowing whether he created additional back doors that would allow him to access the network again.

Although Wheeler apparently did not access medical or financial records or Social Security numbers, Smith expressed concern that he could in the future if released on bond. She noted Houston Healthcare is now checking the security of the network, having had to bring in an outside company. Houston Healthcare estimated potential damages could be as high as $100,000, Smith said.

Reza Sedghi, a Macon attorney representing Wheeler, said Wheeler had no criminal intent, and he was simply trying to impress the information technology department with his abilities in the hopes of landing a job.

Sedghi noted that Wheeler discovered the breach, and when he brought it to the attention of the chief information officer for Houston Healthcare, he was instructed to return the same day with his résumé and a list of all of the security issues with the server.

He returned with his résumé and the list, and two Warner Robins police officers arrested him, Sedghi said.

Sedghi noted several doctors in the area who use Wheeler’s computer services had written letters of support for him.

But Lukemire said from the bench that the charges against Wheeler are serious with consequences that warrant more than a “slap on the wrist.”

“It might look good on some Hollywood show,” Lukemire said of Wheeler allegedly hacking into the server to win a job. “In the real world, that is a felony.”

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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