Solana Beach man accused of extortion; facing felony counts

A Solana Beach man accused of trying to extort money out of Maserati North America by manipulating the carmaker’s Web site is facing five felony counts, according to an indictment unsealed today.

Bruce Mengler, 60, was arrested by FBI agents on Friday.

The indictment charging him with four counts of extortion and one count of computer intrusion was unsealed at his arraignment before Magistrate Nita Stormes at the downtown federal courthouse.

According to court documents, Maserati North America mailed fliers earlier this year to potential customers, inviting them to test-drive Maserati vehicles and receive gift certificates redeemable at Omaha Steaks in return.

The flier directed the recipient to visit MNA’s Web site and enter their unique Personal Identification Number printed on the flier in order to receive the gift certificate.

Upon entering a valid PIN, each customer was asked to update his or her name and contact information.

Beginning on or about March 9, Mengler launched a “brute force attack’’ against MNA’s Web site that identified valid PINs and downloaded associated customer data, the indictment alleges.

Mengler then sent a series of e-mails to MNA, threatening to publicize the security breach unless MNA satisfied his demands for payment, according to the indictment.

Specifically, the indictment alleges that Mengler manually and by means of an automated program used PINs that were not assigned to him to log into MNA’s Web site.

When Mengler successfully identified a valid PIN, he used a program to download the associated customer data to his computer system, causing a loss to the MNA of more than $5,000, according to the indictment.

The indictment further alleges that beginning on March 11 and continuing for more than two weeks, MNA received a series of threatening e-mails from the defendant, which included the names, addresses and PINs of four San Diego-area customers.

MNA reported the computer intrusion and threatening communications to law enforcement and cooperated fully with an investigation conducted by the Cybercrime Squad of the San Diego Division of the FBI.

Mengler will be back in court on Oct. 31.