A former web producer in California who is now a social media editor at Thomson Reuters has been indicted on charges that he conspired with computer hackers to deface Tribune Co. web pages.

U.S. Justice Department prosecutors on March 14 said in court papers that Matthew Keys "provided login credentials to members of Anonymous and encouraged them to vandalize the web site of his former employer, a news organization."

Keys was indicted in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California on charges that include transmission of malicious code and conspiracy to damage a protected computer. Keys is a former web producer at the Sacramento, Calif.-based television station KTXL Fox 40. He was terminated in October 2010.

That December, according to prosecutors, Keys allegedly provided login credentials to Anonymous members to access a computer server that belonged to Tribune, the parent company of KTXL and the Los Angeles Times. Prosecutors said a hacker defaced the web version of a Times news feature.

Transmission of malicious code carries a maximum prison term of 10 years and a fine of $250,000. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years. Keys, 26, was not immediately reached for comment Thursday evening. The court file did not indicate whether he had retained counsel.

Keys, according to his LinkedIn page, has worked for Reuters since January 2012.

A Thomson Reuters spokesman issued the following statement: "We are aware of the charges brought by the Department of Justice against Matthew Keys, an employee of our news organization. Thomson Reuters is committed to obeying the rules and regulations in every jurisdiction in which it operates. Any legal violations, or failures to comply with the company’s own strict set of principles and standards, can result in disciplinary action. We would also observe the indictment alleges the conduct occurred in December 2010; Mr. Keys joined Reuters in 2012, and while investigations continue we will have no further comment."

Prosecutors said the Keys case is related to the charges brought against Hector Xavier Monsegur in Manhattan federal district court. Monsegur, who used the nickname "Sabu," appeared in the Internet chat that is at the core of the case against Keys, an assistant U.S. attorney, Matthew Segal, said in a court filing.

Monsegur, according to prosecutors, "offered advice on how to conduct the network intrusion" that Keys encouraged. Monsegur is a cooperating defendant, prosecutors said. He is scheduled for sentencing in August before Chief Judge Loretta Preska.

Keys is scheduled for arraignment on April 12 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edmund Brennan in Sacramento.

Contact Mike Scarcella at mscarcella@alm.com.