Former St. Louis Cardinals Exec Sentenced To 46 Months For Hacking Houston Astros

Image courtesy of Paul Thompson

More than six months after pleading guilty to hacking into the Houston Astros’ front office computer network, a former St. Louis Cardinals executive has been sentenced to 46 months in federal prison.

In 2015, the FBI began investigating allegations that someone in the Cardinals organization may have breached the Astros’ network to obtain confidential and proprietary information on players.

There has been tension between execs at the two clubs — former division foes before the Astros were moved over to the American League — since 2011, when Jeff Luhnow left his gig as the Cardinals’ Vice President of Baseball Development to become the Astros’ General Manager.

In Houston, Luhnow built a database called “Ground Control” — containing information like stats, player evaluations, and trade negotiations — that was similar to the “Red Bird” database he’d used at St. Louis.

When Luhnow left, his old laptop — and the password for the device — ended up in the hands of Cardinals’ director of Baseball Development Chris Correa. Using that password, Correa was able to illegally access the Astros’ Ground Control system.

This wasn’t just a prank. Correa admitted that he used his access to view the Astros’ scouts rankings on every player eligible for the 2013 draft. He was also able to track internal discussions on Astros prospects, possible trades.

The Astros noticed the intrusion in March 2014 — at least a year after Correa had begun accessing the network — and made changes to the Ground Control URL and passwords. Even then, Correa was able to use information he’d already gleaned from his unauthorized access to once again breach the site.

After some of the stolen information was leaked online, the FBI investigation tracked the source of the breach to a computer in a home where Cardinals staffers had lived.

Correa was fired in July 2015 and ultimately entered guilty please in Jan. 2016 to five counts of unauthorized access of a protected computer.

In sentencing Correa, the judge effectively explained that he’s the reason other baseball teams can’t have nice things.

“You have made it harder for them to live their lives,” said the judge, referring to other MLB teams that must now bolster their security to prevent other jerks like Correa from breaking in.

After finishing his 46 months behind bars, Correa face two years of supervised release. He must also pay $279,038.65 in restitution to the Astros. However, the team estimates that the total intended loss for all of Correa’s intrusions is approximately $1.7 million.

No other members of Cardinals staff has been implicated or accused in this case.

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