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Three Seattle men indicted on charges of burglarizing multiple Eastside businesses

A prosecution of an electronic theft ring that sometimes used a technique called "war-driving" to commit crimes on the Eastside and elsewhere has moved into the federal arena.

Three Seattle men are named in a federal indictment that accuses them of multiple conspiracy counts to steal information and other goods from businesses throughout the Puget Sound region.

The indictment brought Sept. 15 in federal court in Seattle largely parallels accusations first filed early in 2011 in King County Superior Court.

Several Eastside businesses are named as victims, including at least three in Kirkland and four in Bellevue. One of the major thefts, totaling more than $300,000, took place at Concur Technologies in Redmond.

The defendants are Joshuah Allen Witt, 34; Brad Eugene Lowe, 36, and John Earl Griffin, 36, all of Seattle. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The 10 counts, which include charges of identity theft and illegally accessing computer systems to commit fraud, describe both complex techniques and expensive tastes.

Among the techniques was a tactic known as "war-driving," according to the charges, in which people drive through neighborhoods with a long-range antenna to find vulnerable networks.

The three men "used the war-driving technique, and information they obtained as a result, in order to identify and reconnoiter wireless networks for attack," the charges add.

The men hacked the computer networks of at least 13 companies and burglarized at least 41 other businesses, the charges continue.

In one incident at a Renton company on July 31, 2010, for example, the men are accused of stealing about $170,600 worth of computers and other electronic gear.

The crimes began as early as April, 2008, the charges add, and besides stealing financial information and computer equipment, they tried to buy things.

In November, 2008, for example, Witt and Griffin either bought, or tried to buy, 16 items through a phony eBay account, including a 2006 Dodge Charger Hemi engine for $3,949, a 2006 Dodge Hemi engine for $4,249 and a new Rolex watch for $5,490.

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