Back in June, the New York Times reported that the St. Louis Cardinals were being investigated for hacking the database of the Houston Astros. The details of the hacking emerged, and it appeared to be a rather unsophisticated attempt to look at information on the Astros database. Roughly a month after these reports emerged, the Cardinals fired scouting director Chris Correa, just one month after he finished leading the Cardinals through the MLB Draft. Correa had been with the organization since 2009 and worked under current Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow when the latter was employed by the Cardinals. Today, the Wall Street Journal's Brian Costa is reporting that Chris Correa will be indicted on charges related to hacking the Astros and he is expected to plead guilty.
Update: Correa has in fact entered a guilty plea:
Christopher Correa has just pleaded guilty to five counts of unauthorized access to computer information.— David Barron (@dfbarron) January 8, 2016
They carry a pretty hefty penalty:
Max penalty on each of the five counts vs. Chris Correa includes up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250k and restitution.— David Barron (@dfbarron) January 8, 2016
Correa, through his attorney, initially denied the charges and attempted to shift the conversation back to the Astros,
In a prepared statement, Correa's lawyer, Nicholas Williams, wrote: "Mr. Correa denies any illegal conduct. The relevant inquiry should be what information did former St. Louis Cardinals employees steal from the St. Louis Cardinals organization prior to joining the Houston Astros, and who in the Houston Astros organization authorized, consented to, or benefited from that roguish behavior?"
Jeff Luhnow, the general manager of the Astros, once held a prominent position with the Cardinals front office, and was responsible for many of the analytic advancements made within the Cardinals organization in terms of drafting and developing players. He was also a divisive figure within the organization and the division within the Cardinals eventually helped cause the firing of former Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty. John Mozeliak, a long-time Cardinals employee and assistant general manager at the time, replaced Jocketty and had a much better working relationship with Luhnow. The Astros, among others noticed Luhnow's success with the Cardinals, and charged Luhnow with rebuilding the franchise, which returned to the playoffs last season after a lengthy asbsence.
Derrick Goold and Robert Patrick, reporting for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, uncovered the alleged illegal activity from Correa's end back in July:
The source said that Correa's involvement in the hacking began in 2013, in an attempt to determine whether Luhnow or any other former Cardinals employees took proprietary data to the Astros.
Correa's suspicions were aroused in part by a résumé in which a job seeker claimed expertise that Correa believed could have come only from working with Cardinals data, the source said.
He used an old password from a former Cardinals employee working for the Astros to access the Houston database "a few" times but did not download data, the source said. The source claims Correa located some data on the website, but did not report it to his bosses because the information was outdated and unreliable without being redone.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Correa "has tentatively agreed to plead guilty to 5 of 12 related charges." For Correa, this is a devastating development for his reputation, career, and potentially his freedom. The hacking scandal has certainly tarnished the Cardinals' reputation, and it is too early to say how much further this investigation will go to uncovering potential illegal activity by Cardinals employees.
In June, St. Louis Cardinals Chairman Bill Dewitt characterized the hacking as "roguish behavior" and was stunned to learn of the alleged hacking from the FBI. The Cardinals internal investigation resulted in Chris Correa's being placed on a leave of absence and ultimately fired. Major League Baseball has yet to weigh in terms of punishment for the Cardinals, but it would not be out of the realm of possibilities that the Cardinals could be heavily fined or potentially lose a draft pick.