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US mayor and son charged with hacking into opposition site

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A small town US mayor and his son have been arrested over allegations they hacked into a website calling for his recall.

Dr Felix Roque, 55, the mayor of West New York, New Jersey, and Joseph Roque, 22, of Passaic County, allegedly hacked into recallroque.com and illegally accessed e-mails in February. Joseph Roque is accused of gaining control of the administrative email account associated with the dot-com before interacting with its web host, Go Daddy, to shut the site down, The New York Times reports.

The father and son team also "sought to identify, intimidate and harass" those who operated the website and other critics of Roque's administration, the Department of Justice alleged:

By the late afternoon of February 8, 2012, Joseph Roque had successfully hacked into various online accounts used in connection with the recall website. Joseph Roque then used that access to disable the website. Mayor Roque harassed and attempted to intimidate several individuals whom he had learned were associated with the recall website.

The pair face conspiracy and computer hacking charges over the alleged political dirty tricks. Both charges carry possible fines on conviction of up to $250,000 and the risk of a substantial spell behind bars. The alleged abuse of public trust involved in the case means the charges are being treated especially seriously.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward commented: "In this instance, an elected official conspired to hack into a website and email account.

"It's incredibly disappointing that resources have to be diverted from protecting the US against cyber intrusions targeting critical infrastructure, federally funded research and military technology, to address a public official intruding into computer systems to further a political agenda."

US Attorney Paul Fishman added: "The elected leader of West New York and his son allegedly hacked into computers to intimidate constituents who were simply using the internet to exercise their Constitutional rights to criticise the government."

Mayor Roque only gained office last year after leading a successful recall against the previous mayor, Sal Vega, and beating him in the subsequent election. West New York has a population of 50,000 and is located around seven miles from Manhattan. It's unclear whether or not Roque, who describes himself as an "independent conservative democrat", intends to resign as a result of the charges, The Jersey Journal reports. ®

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