Chicago man charged in phony scheme against energy company

HOUSTON (AP) — A 28-year-old Chicago man is charged with five counts of wire fraud in what federal prosecutors say was a phony extortion scheme against the Houston-based energy company where he worked.

Federal court documents show former BP Corporation North America Inc. employee George Koutsostamatis sent BP an email saying he had infiltrated the company’s computer network and threatened to release the information unless he received a payment. Prosecutors say the hacking claim was false.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dena Palermo on Tuesday set a Jan. 29 trial for Koutsostamatis. He was taken into custody last week in Chicago after a grand jury in Houston returned an indictment against him in November.

He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.