A federal jury convicted a former Twitter manager last week of selling users' private information to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Ahmad Abouammo, a former media partnerships manager for Twitter's Middle East/North Africa region, was found guilty of multiple felonies, including acting as a foreign agent of Saudi Arabia without providing notice to the Attorney General, money laundering, conspiracy and falsifying records.
The verdict against the 44-year-old former Walnut Creek resident follows a two-week trial, according to an announcement last Wednesday from the office of U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds of the Northern District of California.
The evidence at trial demonstrated that Abouammo took bribes in exchange for accessing, monitoring and conveying the private information of Twitter users to officials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Royal family, according to the announcement.
Hinds said the Department of Justice does not tolerate the misuse of personal information or attempts by foreign governments to recruit secret, malign agents at American technology companies.
"In this case, the government demonstrated, and the jury found, that Abouammo violated a sacred trust to keep private personal information from Twitter's customers and sold private customer information to a foreign government," she said.
"Abouammo's decision to accept bribes in exchange for providing to a foreign government the protected information of customers could have untold damaging consequences."
Prosecutors said the recipient of the private information is known for targeting people viewed as opponents.
"Abouammo acted in secret as an agent of a foreign government targeting dissenting voices," said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department's National Security Division. "This verdict shows that the Justice Department will not tolerate any act of transnational repression and will hold accountable those who aid hostile regimes in extending their reach to our shores."
The department's announcement reported that according to the evidence presented at trial, Abouammo began receiving bribes from an official of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as early as December 2014, including one in 2015 for $100,000 deposited in a bank account in his father's name in Lebanon.
In October 2018, FBI agents interviewed Abouammo at his residence about his involvement in the scheme with officials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Evidence at trial demonstrated that Abouammo provided false information to the FBI investigators and falsified an invoice for one of the payments he received from the foreign official.
Abouammo was arrested on Nov. 5, 2019, but did not leave his job at Twitter until May 2021. Shortly thereafter, he received another $100,000 into the bank account in Lebanon.
Abouammo faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for the charge of acting as an agent of a foreign government and 20 years in prison for each of the other counts. In addition, each count carries up to a $250,000 fine and additional periods of supervised release to follow the prison term.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Colin Sampson and Eric Cheng for the Northern District of California and Trial Attorney Christine Bonomo of the National Security Division's Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Beth Margen and Alycee Lane. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI.