Prosecutors say Washington software engineer steals more than $300,000 from employer, inspired by ‘Office Space’ movie


A Washington man allegedly transferred thousands of dollars from his employer into a personal account after being inspired by the 1999 movie “Office Space,” according to an arrest report from the Seattle Police Department.

Ermenildo Valdez Castro, 28, worked for online retailer Zulily as a software engineer from December 2018 until he was fired in June, according to police.

“Beginning in the spring of 2022, Castro began editing Zulili’s software code in ways that allowed him to steal from the company,” the police report said.

Police said Castro inserted three types of malicious code into Zulili’s payment process and, using these methods, “stolen $302,278.52 prior to his termination in June 2022.”

The report said Zulili’s fraud team was able to detect a pattern of price adjustments on several products the company sold, which police said Castro had ordered and shipped to his residence.

A OneNote document found on Castro’s work laptop called “OfficeSpace Project” was identified by the investigation, and in it a “shipping fee theft scheme” was identified, according to the report.

The police report also indicates that the plot of “Office Space” revolves around engineers who hatch a plan to move portions of cents into a personal bank account.

Castro was contacted by the police and arrested on June 21. On that date he spoke with investigators after his rights were read. During that interview, police said, he “confirmed that he named his scheme to steal from Zulili after the movie.”

Castro also told authorities that he placed orders for more than 1,000 items that were shipped to his home, and that they were part of “a testing process that Zulelli was aware of, but he claimed a script would run shortly thereafter that would essentially cancel the order and ensure no Processing requests.

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He said test orders had to be charged to a personal credit card, thus changing the prices of the items, to avoid incurring large expenses on his personal credit card. He said he forgot to write the script. Therefore, the orders are shipped. He admitted he never notified staff, the police report said Zulili with the orders that were delivered.

Castro also told the police that he threw many things away once he was fired.

“When asked why he didn’t return the items to Zuleli, he said that once they shot him, his mind was ‘F**k’ em,” the report said.

On December 20, King County District Attorney Daniel Satterberg filed charges of first-degree robbery and identity theft in Washington Superior Court for King County v. Castro.

As of Friday afternoon, the King County Superior Court Clerk’s Office website did not list Castro’s attorneys.

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