JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The “architect” of the Jaguars’ video board system is accused of repeatedly hacking the giant scoreboards during the 2018 season, after his contract was not renewed by the team, according to an indictment announced Thursday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Samuel Arthur Thompson, 49, who is a registered sex offender, is also charged with having child sex abuse images, illegally possessing a firearm and traveling without notifying authorities.
Investigators said that Thompson was a contractor for the Jaguars from April 2017 to February 2018, when his contract was not renewed. He was let go, sources told News4Jax, because whistleblowers raised concerns about his criminal history.
During the 2018-19 season, the Jaguars’ giant video boards inside the stadium malfunctioned several times, and an investigation traced the cause to an account connected to Thompson.
Investigators said the account had been used to remotely log into the computer system and send commands to a rogue server that had been placed in the Jaguars’ server room, resulting in the outages.
IT expert Chris Hamer said Thompson had access to a vulnerable system – the Jags videos boards – with the potential to reach tens of thousands of people within seconds. And the fact he was a sex offender put everyone at risk.
“He could have exposed them to ransomware, encrypted everything and demanded an extortion payment that would have been untraceable,” Hamer said. “He could have downed the entire network he could have showed inappropriate content on the big screens during a broadcast.”
Video shows that Thompson was a director when the Jaguars unveiled the new video boards in 2014. His LinkedIn profile says he worked for the Jaguars as a control room engineer from 2013 to 2018. He also worked on projects across the country even directed video coverage of the last space shuttle launch in 2011, according to his resume.
The Jaguars issued a statement Thursday following the announcement of his indictment:
Last July, the FBI executed a search warrant at Thompson’s St. Augustine home related to the hacking investigation, and during the search, agents seized computer equipment and Thompson’s cellphone. According to court documents, investigators found child sex abuse images on the phone and on two computers.
They said they also found a gun in his nightstand, but as a convicted felon, he’s not allowed to have one.
Thompson has been required to register as a sex offender since 1998, when he was convicted in Alabama of second-degree sodomy on a child.
Investigators said that just over a week after the agents searched Thompson's home, he traveled to the Philippines without reporting his international travel prior to his departure, in violation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.
Thompson had also traveled to the Bahamas in July 2019 and failed to report that trip, records show.
Thompson was arrested in Los Angeles on Jan. 31, following his deportation from the Philippines.
Attorney Gene Nichols, who is not involved in the case, believes Thompson slipped through the cracks of the Jaguars organization because he was a freelance worker.
“We clearly know he is smart enough to convince people and break the law to the extent he was able to break into those signs,” he said. “Who knows what he conned the Jaguars into as well. And I’m sure that’s what the Jaguars have been researching.”
If convicted on all counts, Thompson faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 15 years, and up to 100 years, in federal prison.
Records show Thompson is in federal custody in California. Eventually, he will be extradited to Jacksonville to face the charges here.