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Sarasota Thursday, Mar. 18, 2010 5 years ago

Online hacker targets referendum opponent

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by: Robin Roy City Editor

The driving force behind the anti school-tax referendum movement claims that computer hackers stole his password and created a Facebook account in his name.

Walt Augustinowicz, who created the political-action committee Better Sarasota Schools for Less, filed a sheriff’s office report March 12 that said someone was able to figure out his Facebook password and open a fictitious account in his name.

“They put up a photo of us waving signs and put out a friend request to my friends to make it look like I created this account,” said Augustinowicz.

He’s said he thinks a referendum supporter is the culprit.

“I’m sure it was a ‘vote yes’ person,” he said. “They set my birth date as March 16 (which was the date of the referendum election). That let us know why they were doing it.”

Augustinowicz said he believes the hacker’s intent was to place some defamatory information on the Facebook page before the election to garner more pro-referendum votes.

But Augustinowicz said he discovered the account intrusion before that could happen.
Ironically, Augustinowicz runs an anti identity-theft business called Identity Stronghold, which protects people from stealing information from smart cards, passports and driver’s licenses.

This isn’t the first time Augustinowicz has accused the referendum’s supporters of wrongdoing.

In February, he filed a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission that claimed the pro-referendum political action committee, Citizens for Better Schools, and the school district violated election law by having students take home pro-referendum fliers. That challenge was denied.

Augustinowicz is now trying to get the sheriff’s office to subpoena Facebook records so he can trace the hacker.

“I don’t think whoever did this knows I used to be a computer programmer,” he said. “I hope they’re sweating.

Contact Robin Roy at rroy@yourobserver.com.

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