Illinois man agrees to plead guilty in
celebrity hacking case
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[July 02, 2016]
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An Illinois man
accused of breaking into the Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts of
celebrities to obtain their private photos and videos has agreed to
plead guilty to a felony computer hacking charge, prosecutors said on
Edward Majerczyk, 28, facing up to five years in prison, is the
second man charged in a federal investigation into the leaks of nude
photos of several Hollywood actresses, including Oscar winner
Jennifer Lawrence, in September 2014.
According to a plea agreement signed by Majerczyk, he illegally
accessed Apple iCloud and Google Gmail accounts belonging to more
than 300 people, using an email "phishing" ploy to obtain their user
names and passwords.
Through this scheme, Majerczyk was able to access full iCloud
backups belonging to numerous victims, including at least 30
celebrities, many of whom reside in the Los Angeles area, the plea
"Many of these backups contained sensitive and private photographs
and videos," it said.
Under his deal with federal prosecutors, Majerczyk, a Chicago
resident, will formally plead guilty in U.S. District Court in
Illinois to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,
according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.
A 36-year-old Pennsylvania man, Ryan Collins, pleaded guilty in
March to the same offense in a case stemming from the same
Like Collins, federal authorities said they had found no evidence
linking Majerczyk to actual public circulation of any of the photos
to which he gained access.
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While no victims were named in court documents, the investigation
began after Lawrence and other celebrities, including actresses
Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union and model Kate Upton, complained
in interviews about having their private photos end up publicly
It was not the first time celebrity nude photos obtained through by
computer intrusions led to a criminal prosecution.
A Florida man was sentenced in 2012 to 10 years in prison for
hacking into email accounts of Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis and
Christina Aguilera to leak private information and explicit photos.
Pop star Taylor Swift said her Twitter and Instagram accounts were
hacked in January 2015.
More recently, a Bahamian man in New York pleaded guilty in May to
charges of hacking into celebrities' email accounts to steal
unreleased movies and television scripts. And a Filipino man was
charged last month in New Jersey with running a scheme to hack into
the bank and credit card accounts of celebrities.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bernard Orr)
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