CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In 1996, 17-year-old Ricky Joe Mitchell had a 4.6 grade-point average and a second-place win at the regional science fair. He played soccer and hoped to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
However, during the last few weeks of his junior year, "RickDogg," as he called himself online, was accused of attempting to plant viruses in the computer system at Capital High School. He was suspended and later forced to transfer schools, in a case that reached the West Virginia Supreme Court.
Last week, Mitchell, now 34, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Charleston on a charge of recklessly damaging a protected computer. Prosecutors say he shut down his former company's computer network and phone system for a month.
As a network engineer for EnerVest Operating, an oil and gas company with an office in Charleston, the indictment in U.S. District Court alleges Mitchell deleted backup information and transmitted a command to disable the data replication process, which is designed to transmit backup data to the company's Houston location.
The U.S. Secret Service, which investigated the case, also believes Mitchell deleted, among other things, all of the company's phone system accounts and extensions, and its accounting data, the indictment states.
Mitchell, now living in Mableton, Ga., worked for EnerVest from August 2009 through June 26, 2012 - the date the computer system damage allegedly occurred.
The company couldn't conduct business for a month, and lost $1 million because of Mitchell, according to the indictment.
He faces up to 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine if convicted, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.
In 1997, Mitchell graduated from East Bank High School, but not without a fight to be reinstated at Capital High that reached the Supreme Court.
The previous summer, he was suspended for three days from Capital for copying "108 computer viruses from floppy diskettes to disk space allocated and assigned to another student on the Capital High School computer system," according to a memo to Kanawha County school board members, available in court documents from the earlier case.
The memo also states that Mitchell bragged about the incident and admitted it to school officials.