U.S. attorney: Blaine hacker targeted neighbor

  • Article by: JAMES WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 16, 2010 - 9:12 AM

A federal prosecutor's opening arguments portrayed Barry Ardolf as technically astute, and vindictive.

A Blaine man hacked into his neighbor's wireless Internet to send e-mails containing child pornography, sexual advances and threats to Vice President Joe Biden to smear and terrorize people who had made him angry, a federal prosecutor said on Wednesday.

What set Barry Vincent Ardolf apart, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Rank, was his computer expertise and vindictiveness to meticulously carry out a scheme that almost succeeded in making it appear that all those things came from his neighbor's computer.

Rank cautioned jurors on the first day of Ardolf's federal trial in St. Paul to not be intimidated by the technical minutiae of tapping into somebody else's wireless service and creating bogus e-mails and MySpace pages.

"This case is about a dangerous man,'' Rank said in his opening arguments. "A person who got mad at his neighbors and then used his knowledge and technical training to terrorize them and try to destroy their lives."

Ardolf's attorney, Seamus Mahoney, did not give an opening statement on Wednesday. He is expected to argue that someone else did to Ardolf what Ardolf is accused of doing to his neighbor -- framing him.

A grand jury charged Ardolf with illegally tapping into another person's computer, identity theft, possession and transmission of child pornography and sending threats to the vice president.

Began with a kiss

A day after moving into their Blaine home in August 2008, a young family's 4-year-old son wandered into Ardolf's yard to play, Rank told jurors. The boy's mother saw Ardolf pick up her son and tell the boy, "Bet you can't touch me."

The mother, aghast, tried calling the boy, Rank said, but Ardolf held him. Before finally setting him down, Ardolf loudly kissed him on the lips.

The boy's parents, Matt and Bethany Kostolnik, reported the incident to Blaine police, who questioned Ardolf. Months later, Rank told jurors, Ardolf began seeking vengeance.

He allegedly created a bogus e-mail account in Matt Kostolnik's name. Hijacking the family's wireless router, he sent a series of e-mails containing child pornography and lewd messages to Matt Kostolnik's boss and co-workers at a Minneapolis law firm.

Ardolf eventually allegedly sent threats to elected officials -- including Biden -- again, in his neighbor's name.

That's where Rank said Ardolf slipped up. An investigator hired by Kostolnik's firm had set up a device to track his wireless traffic. That led to Ardolf's Internet account, which in turn led to a search of Ardolf's home. Rank said investigators found reams of evidence -- hacking software, a certificate for completing hacker training and copies of e-mails he allegedly sent -- on computers and other storage devices. Ardolf, a former computer technician at Medtronic, had painstakingly researched how to implicate and damage his neighbors, Rank said.

A U.S. Secret Service agent later asked Ardolf why he wished to harm the vice president. Rank said that Ardolf told the agent that he was happy with the vice president. Then why did he send the threat?

"Maybe I was mad at my neighbor," Rank said Ardolf replied.

James Walsh 612-673-7428

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