Love Bug author charged, may face stiff jail term

Onel de Guzman, the 23-year-old student suspected of spreading the 'I Love You' virus, has been charged with theft and violation of the Philippines' Access Device Law.

          Onel de Guzman, the 23-year-old college student suspected of spreading the destructive "I Love You" computer virus, on Thursday was charged with theft and violation of the Access Device Law by the Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

          Elfren Meneses Jr., chief of the NBI's Anti-Fraud and Computer Crimes Division, told Computerworld Philippines that the agency has strong evidence against De Guzman.

          "Aside from these evidences, we also have four witnesses who can prove De Guzman launched the virus. One of these witnesses is a Japanese businessman whose e-mail passwords were stolen by the virus," said Meneses.

          De Guzman, suspected of writing the virus with college friend Michael Buen, admitted in a press conference last May that he might have accidentally sent a virus through the Internet.

          Officials of his former school, AMA Computer College, also told journalists that his thesis, a software program capable of capturing and sending passwords from an infected computer to a specified e-mail address, was similar to the "I Love You" virus.

          Meneses said it is up to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Prosecutor's Office to decide whether the charges filed will go to court or be dismissed. "It is now in the hands of the DOJ," he said, noting that the NBI found probable cause to file a case.

          If convicted, De Guzman could face imprisonment from six to 20 years for violation of the Access Device Law and three to six years for theft. Fines for violation of the Access Device Law can range from 10,000 pesos (US$232) to twice the value of damage done. The fine for theft is determined by the judge.

          Meneses added that the NBI will not file a case against Buen, because they found no evidence against him. The agency has also dropped its charges against Reomel Ramones, a bank employee suspected earlier in the case, after it failed to submit substantial proof to the DOJ. The three-man committee reviewing the Ramones case dismissed it last Thursday.

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