WOLFEBORO, N.H. – Dennis Moran, an 18-year-old high school dropout, earned international notoriety and a nine-month jail sentence last year for his computer-hacking exploits.
He was accused by the FBI of hacking into a computer security firm's Web site and the computer systems of four U.S. military bases. He also hacked into an anti-drug site connected to the Los Angeles Police Department, adding a cartoon of Donald Duck with a hypodermic needle in his arm.
Now Moran, who went by the online name Coolio, runs a computer services company that a mentor helped him set up while in jail. He is chauffeured to jobs on work-release during the day and returned to jail each night. He completes his sentence on Tuesday.
Moran says he is looking forward to building his business, DM Computer Services, into a thriving company.
"I'd love to fly around the country all the time doing independent consulting for large companies," he said. "It's fun going from a lazy, inexperienced kid to a proprietor of a computer business."
Moran was briefly suspected -- but cleared -- of shutting down Web sites belonging to Amazon, Dell, eBay, Yahoo! and CNN by bombarding them with e-mails early last year.
He pleaded guilty in January to three misdemeanor counts of unauthorized access to a computer system. He was sentenced to jail and ordered to pay $5,000 to each of the three victims. The judge also ordered him to work on the county's computer system while in jail.
Moran has shorn the shoulder-length hair he had when he was arrested last year. He has also traded in the baggy jeans and hooded sweatshirt he wore to court hearings last winter for monogrammed dress shirts and chinos on his work-release job.
The new clothes were gifts from an area businessman, Paul Zimmerman, who took Moran under his wing and helped him start the computer company.
Zimmerman was wintering in Florida when he read about Moran. He wrote him a letter and visited him in jail on his next trip to Wolfeboro.
Zimmerman said he was impressed with Moran's attitude.
"I found him to be a most delightful person," Zimmerman said. "He was not angry or vindictive or mad at the system. He was taking his licks in an honorable way."
Every weekday at 8 a.m., Zimmerman picks up Moran at jail. Zimmerman's office must call the jail, which Zimmerman calls "the hotel," when Moran arrives and whenever he goes out on a job. He has to be back by 6 p.m.
For $50 an hour, Moran troubleshoots home and business computers, including Zimmerman's office system and those of Zimmerman's tenants and friends.
Zimmerman helped Moran set his rates and advised him to offer free visits to introduce him to clients who might be wary of giving control over their computers to a teenager serving time for computer crimes.
"He's on probation, what's he going to do? We're saying he's FBI-certified," he said.
Zimmerman coaches Moran on everything from proper work dress, to placement of his attache case in a potential client's office -- on a chair, not the desk.
Moran said he hasn't made much money yet, but he's made enough to buy lunch and cigarettes. He has to pay the county $20 a day when he's out on work release.
Moran also is sending some money to his family -- his computer technician father is unemployed.
Tony Campaigne, a stock trader and an old friend of Zimmerman, is having Moran install a wireless network in his home office.
"You see so few people with such creative minds," Campaigne said. "He's obviously brilliant to have done what he did."
Moran said when he gets out of jail, he'll take his family to lunch and plan a party with family and friends in the evening.
Getting a driver's license will be a top priority. He never got around to it before his legal troubles began.
If Zimmerman had not written to him in jail, Moran is not sure what he would have done once he was released from jail.
"I don't know. I really had no plans at all," he said.