“One of my first posts on Twitter was that I am not here for drama, and I plan to stick to that the best that I can.”
That was before the drama came for him.
So said Higinio Ochoa, formerly better known as w0rmer of swashbuckling hacktivist crew CabinCr3w, in a drama-decrying Twitlonger message October 22. The convicted hacker had regained internet access as of September 30th as a part of his parole conditions, having served his 27-month sentence for hacking into police websites and an FBI database, seeking to expose institutional bigotry and corruption.
He’s just posted another Twitlonger message. And he’s not thrilled about it, either.
It is now the 29th of October and this month has been a long one. I have applied to over 100+ positions and so far I have only one company which seems to be willing to hire me.
The problem I face is simply that I am a felon.
Having the unique mix of skills that I do won’t help me get where I need to be since all of the companies I have applied for want that big government money check. That means I have to get a security clearance which is hard if not impossible to get with a felony. Not to mention the time and expense needed to acquire one.
Kylie and I have made it so far with the love and support of friends and family plus a little bit of luck thanks to our last drive. With Kylie now working we have the money to buy the little things like diapers, wipes, formula, and basic food but until I am hired on or this contract goes through we are still very much walking a thin line. We managed to pay our electricity and keep our phones on, but have had to let the restitution and other bills pile up since moving forward depends strongly on them being active.
I know many of you are facing the very same hardships we are, and while the scenario may be different its undoubtedly just as scary. If all you can do is re-tweet this plea for help then please do that, any and all help will be greatly appreciated. The goal on the page is simply there so the limit wont be effected, in total $2000 is all we need to keep up our rent and pay the back bills just enough to not drown us. This is a last ditch effort to keep us in our home so that the company interested in hiring me has the time to do the paperwork and have the meetings that will lead to my employment. If there are any questions please feel free to DM, call, or msg me in anyway you feel and I will be happy to answer them for you.
Much love and Thanks,
Higinio, Kylie, and Brody Ochoa
Welcomed back to the internet only a month ago, released from prison just over a year ago, Ochoa has already been through the proverbial wringer. As his wife Kylie detailed in her extensive interview with The Cryptosphere, the prison system made several last-minute and unexpected changes to his release conditions. Among other things, these changes forced the family to move from living rent-free in the Ochoa family home to Austin, Texas, where they knew no-one and had limited time to nail down a secure housing situation that would pass muster with the parole officer. At that time a fundraiser helped them meet the moving and rental expenses. Will the internet put out for them once again?
You bet it will.
After Ochoa posted the above Twitlonger, it was picked up by @YourAnonNews, one of the most powerful activist Twitter accounts in the world. After an hour and a handful of tweets that were picked up by followers and retweeted, the YouCaring fundraiser had almost doubled its donations, and now stands at $979; it had previously almost stalled at $500 for several weeks.
We spoke to Ochoa about his return to the internet and the events in his life which had led to the impassioned call for help.
Because “felon” is a lifelong label, convicted felons must disclose their status to potential employers, and if they are subsequently arrested for hacking crimes, the employer’s electronics may be subject to seizure as evidence, if the FBI considers them to have been involved in the case. Naturally, this has a chilling effect on the employment landscape for retired hacktivists.
Ochoa was fortunate enough to secure a software development gig that he was able to perform from home, although he had to put the code on a USB stick so his wife could then email it to his boss. September 29 he was laid off from his job. September 30, he was given official permission to get back online.
One of the first things he got to see was the fundraiser his wife had put up the very day before, scrambling to find money to pay their rent in the inflated Austin real estate market.
Kylie Ochoa is what is popularly termed a firecracker, previously had a successful career as a trainer in the Australian government, and it didn’t take her long to find a job. She was hired October 21 at a minimum wage gig that the family prefers not to specify to avoid harassment.
Ironically, her first paycheque will come to her on November 5.
Higinio has also found work, although he hasn’t started yet and because there’s an NDA involved, he cannot speak specifically about the job itself. It’s still in the field of software development, though, and the pay rate is encouraging, particularly compared to his previous gig.
The Cryptosphere: Can you give us some background on your former job?
Higinio Ochoa: The last company I worked for was a repo company, a PI company, and a car license plate reading company all in one.
[ed note: The ironic aspects of a former CabinCr3w member working in the surveillance industry threatened to shatter this reporter’s monitor for a moment, but we held it together]
I was Lead Programmer and Head of Research & Development. They did fail to pay me my last week’s pay, but overall they treated me well. I worked mostly developing software that interacted with the camera systems and coming up with platforms for the agents to work through.
Is the new job paid at the same rate or better? Is it full time? Are you comfortable giving me the name of the company? What’s the job, what kind of software?
I can’t release the company’s name because the NDA has NOT been signed. Doing so would almost guarantee that I not get the job. I will be making at least what I did [before]. I will now be working primarily with PHP, Python, and Objective C.
How much is your monthly rent? How much for food for everyone? Do you guys have a car, or are you reliant on the bus system?
My rent is $1,400+ , I have restitution [$14,062.17], heath insurance, internet, monitoring, phone, and of course, food. We decided to take foodstamps for me and Brody [the Ochoa’s son, 2] since Kylie (an Australian) isn’t eligible for them. We do not have a car. We don’t yet have a bus system in our part of town.
I’ve been told there’s some sort of government insurance or guarantee when hiring a felon.
I believe its actually $50k. And yes, when hiring a felon you’re given a special coverage that if I, say, hack your system, steal your data, or whatever may be, that you would be covered for $50k. As you know, however, most threats would cost more than that, and in my case it has more to do with [having the skills where I could be] working for the government and not being able to.
Have you considered getting a job outside your field? Kylie’s already done so. What are your thoughts on that?
Of course I have. The only problem is that jobs outside my field don’t pay well and I’m under trained for it. I have the skill set that I do because I truly love technology and computers. I have done every part of the spectrum, from flipping burgers and pumping gas, to programming huge applications and phone applications. I CAN and WILL answer phone calls at a help desk if that would pay the bills; sadly, with everything that is going on its hard to see that happening.
How has the conviction impacted your ability to make a living? I mean, obviously you’d have problems getting a security clearance, and many companies won’t want to hire you, but I mean in other ways, like, employers knowing they’ve got you over a barrel and making you work for less than market value for your skills, etc.
Well, for the most part I’m an easy hire/fire type of guy now. I mean you have seen the tv shows. Who’s the first person that gets blamed when something bad happens in a cop show? The felons!
Both the employer and myself have to not only trust each other, but know each other much more than a normal employee would. I am being monitored which is bad in a lot of people’s eyes because of the proprietary software they use and [resultant] privacy issues. Overall, it’s easier to hire five [other] people to do my job than to keep me around. Less pay and less than market pay is also part of it, but less so. People pay for skills and trust. I don’t snitch, so they know they can trust me; they just start me low to test my skills.
How do you feel about the support of the Anonymous community? When do you think The System will be through putting you through the wringer?
I don’t expect anything less than the best the Anonymous community has.
When we all sat in that chatroom and talked about changing the world, we all knew (Sabu included) that there was a chance, a very HIGH chance that we would get caught. We accepted that, knowing that it was our cross to bear, but also knowing that if a fellow Anon was to fall we were to support them in all the ways we could.
In fact that’s where a lot of my pain comes from. By now, with all the support I have garnered over the years, I should be able to give back. I had planned on doing so much, but it has been a long road to get [even just] the internet I now have.
This is but the first step to giving back to a community that needs it. There is rampant infighting, scammers, people provoking other people…
I simply want to help those in need raise themselves up and be heard, helped, and not stopped from learning.