HK man gets prison for hoax e-mail terror warning

HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong businessman who sent a hoax e-mail warning of a Pakistani terrorist bomb plot on a container ship that shut down a California port for 10 hours was sentenced Friday to a year in prison.

Luk Wa sent the e-mail in a desperate attempt to stop a shipment of toys from reaching a buyer who refused to pay.

U.S. border authorities and the Coast Guard closed the Port of Oakland after receiving the warning, purportedly from anti-terrorism police in mainland China, warning that plastic explosives and radioactive materials were in two shipping containers. In reality, the containers held a shipment of plastic toy figurines of the members of rock band Gorillaz.

Pic: AP.

Luk had failed to stop the shipping company from sending them to buyer Paul Budnitz, president of toy and clothing company Kidrobot, who had refused to pay $150,000 owed to him.

Hong Kong District Court Judge Joseph Yau said his sentence took into ac

count mitigating factors including Luk’s pleading guilty to accessing a computer with dishonest intent in the June 2005 incident.

Luk, 42, hacked into another company’s Internet account and signed up for a Yahoo e-mail account with a fake name. The message’s subject heading read, “Alert Gorillaz Dirty Bombs Attack Oakland Port!!!!!” and warned that Pakistani terrorists had placed plastic explosives and highly radioactive materials in containers on a ship headed to the port.

The e-mail asked for police action to stop the container from entering Oakland Bay.

In response, authorities shut down the port, ordering all docked ships out to sea and closing the waterways. A bomb squad examined the containers but did not find explosives or radioactivity.

U.S. investigators traced the e-mail back to the hacked account

and notified Hong Kong authorities, who arrested Luk and found a copy of the e-mail in a laptop handed over by his then-wife.

Luk was arrested in October 2005 but released because Hong Kong authorities didn’t have jurisdiction to prosecute.

He was arrested again in July 2010 following a request by U.S. authorities and spent four months in custody while an extradition request was considered and ultimately rejected, another factor the judge said he took into account when deciding on the sentence.

The judge said he also took into account letters from friends and acquaintances testifying to Luk’s good character, including one by an ex-employee that his lawyer read out in court before sentencing.

Luk was “under immense financial pressure at the time,” said the letter.

“The nonpayment by the overseas buyer basically led to the ruin of his business.”