Ricky Joe Mitchell told a federal judge he had found out he was going to be fired the night he shut down his former company's computer network and phone system for a month.
Mitchell, 34, pleaded guilty to one count of fraudulent activity connected with computers on Tuesday. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison when U.S. District Court Judge John Copenhaver sentences him April 24.
As a network engineer for EnerVest Operating, an oil and gas company with an office in Charleston, the indictment alleged 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.
"Out of anger and being upset," Mitchell told the judge he sent the commands from his Hurricane home in June 2012. "I expected it to actually be more of a window more so than hurting the entire company."
Mitchell said he only expected company employees wouldn't be able to log on to computers, access the Internet, or check e-mails for one day after he sent the command.
Instead, the company couldn't conduct business for a month, and lost $1 million because of Mitchell, according to the indictment. Mitchell, however, only admitted to causing the company to lose a "substantial" amount of money.
"In 2014, it goes without saying that any business's electronic communication capabilities and data storage are nearly as important to its success as the product or service it provides," U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said in a statement. "The prosecution of Mr. Mitchell for his reckless conduct underscores my commitment to help protect small businesses from any threat - both inside and out."
Mitchell, now living in Mableton, Ga., worked for EnerVest from August 2009 through June 26, 2012 - the date the computer system damage occurred.
He agreed to pay restitution, which Copenhaver will determine at a later date and also faces a fine of up to $250,000.
The plea agreement drops one count of recklessly damaging a protected computer. He could have faced a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, Goodwin previously said.
Earlier Tuesday, Mitchell's attorney, public defender David Bungard, told Copenhaver his client was having second thoughts about his plea and asked for more time to meet with prosecutors.
Copenhaver gave Mitchell until 3 p.m., but said if an agreement hadn't been made by then, to be prepared for trial Monday.