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Two traffic engineers for the City of Los Angeles have admitted they illegally disrupted the computer system that controls traffic lights just prior to a 2006 union action related to contract negotiations with the city.

Gabriel Murillo, 39, and Kartik Patel, 36, each pleaded guilty to a single felony count of illegally accessing a city computer in August 2006. Once inside, they disconnected signal control boxes at four of the city's busiest intersections. The hacks occurred hours before a scheduled job action by the Engineers and Architects Assn., the union that represented the men in ongoing contract negotiations with the city.

Los Angeles Prosecutors said the duo used purloined supervisor credentials to send commands that reprogrammed the signal control boxes. Murillo then allegedly hacked the system to prevent other managers from reconnecting the lights. It took four days to fully restore the traffic control system.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, the two must pay restitution, serve 120 days or 240 hours of community service and must have their computer use at home and work monitored. If they successfully comply with the agreement, they may petition to have the felony count reduced to a misdemeanor. Formal sentencing will be delayed for one year. ®

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