- The Washington Times - Friday, November 27, 2015

A teenager accused of hacking Microsoft and the U.S. Army managed to flee his native Australia earlier this year despite being at the center of cyber investigations worldwide — a trek he said was so easy it was “scary.”

Dylan Wheeler, 19, had been already ordered to surrender his passport when he decided to leave Australia back in April amid a years-long legal battle he believed to have no end in sight.

Despite being sought by Australian officials, the FBI and Interpol, however, he has managed to maintain his freedom for more than 6 months so far and said he has no plans to go home to Perth.

“At this point in time, I don’t plan to return to Australia. This is on the advice of human rights lawyers I’ve spoken to. Basically because I am not guaranteed a fair trial,” Mr. Wheeler told ABC News.

The teenager had his first major run-in with the authorities after his home was raided in March 2013 by Australian authorities in conjunction with the Department of Justice. Two months later, the FBI charged three Americans and a Canadian with an 18-count indictment alleging conspiracies to commit computer fraud, copyright infringement, wire fraud, mail fraud, identity theft and theft of trade secrets involving the alleged hacking of Microsoft, the U.S. Army and several video game production studios.

Australian authorities ultimately charged Mr. Wheeler with possession of child exploitation material, dishonestly obtaining credit card information, possession of identification information with the intent of committing an offense and disobeying a data access order to reveal his passwords.

Mr. Wheeler told ABC that he was charged as a result of digital evidence found on a server he operated, but was unaware any contraband had been uploaded there.

“And if I didn’t know that that information was on the servers, I shouldn’t be charged with that offense,” he told the network.

More than two years after being raided, the teen left Australia — and with exceptional ease, he told ABC this week.

“To be honest, it’s quite scary that I was able to leave on my Australian passport,” Mr. Wheeler said, calling into question the capabilities of local immigration authorities.

“They actually have a system called PACE. It’s a system that they use at Border Control to basically find out if you’re a criminal, if you’re trying to leave the country, and it will flag you, normally,” he said.

He didn’t encounter any such complications, however, and managed to make his way safely to Europe in April.

“Most friends, family, if I really wanna — if they wanna see me and I wanna see them, I have more than enough funds nowadays to actually send them over anywhere in the world that isn’t Australia and meet up with them,” he told ABC.

“The accusations they have claimed are untrue and to the best of my knowledge, I haven’t committed a crime. I’d like them to just drop their charges, drop their accusations and face defeat and say, ‘Hey, we stuffed up,’” he said.

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