Employee arrested and charged with stealing over $302,000 after authorities say he was inspired by the movie ‘Office Space’

January 4, 2023, 4:37 PM UTC
Stephen Root as Milton in "Office Space," which evidently inspired a real-life scam.
20th Century Fox Film/Everett Collection

A Seattle man has been arrested by police and charged with stealing $302,279 in a scheme lifted directly from the hit film Office Space

That would buy a lot of red Swingline staplers. 

Ermenildo “Ernie” Castro is facing two counts of felony theft and one count of felony identity theft. The affidavit alleges Castro ran a series of schemes starting last February, after a three-year career with the company, Zulily. Officials say he altered the computer code in his employer’s systems to reroute a small portion of the shipping charges from customer purchases to an account he controlled. The company’s fraud team quickly noticed the discrepancy. 

Then, prosecutors charge, he wrote another snippet of code that doubled shipping prices for customers, splitting the amount between himself and the company, netting him $151,000. And in a third alleged scheme, authorities say, Castro had a woman he reportedly met on Tinder send links to shopping carts full of products, which he bought for pennies on the dollar. 

He was put on leave in early June and fired soon afterward. When Castro turned in his company laptop, Zulily found a document entitled “OfficeSpace project” that detailed the shipping scheme. Police say he admitted to changing the code, but says the company was aware of the alterations. 

In the film Office Space, a trio of disgruntled office workers take revenge against their employer by moving fractions of pennies into a separate bank account. That amount quickly balloons into an amount that is sure to be noticed by the company. In the film, the scheme is inspired by a similar one in a different movie: Superman III

The affidavit says Castro no longer has any of the money he allegedly received from the thefts. He told investigators he invested it in GameStop options and lost it all. 

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