An Illinois man has been charged with felony computer hacking related to a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to over 300 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts, including those belonging to members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.
Edward Majerczyk, 28, was named in a criminal information filed last week in United States District Court in Los Angeles. Majerczyk has signed a plea agreement in which he agrees to plead guilty to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, specifically, one count of unauthorised access to a protected computer to obtain information.
Although Majerczyk has been charged in Los Angeles, the parties have agreed to transfer the case to the Northern District of Illinois for the entry of his guilty plea and sentencing. Once he enters the guilty plea, Majerczyk will face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker said:
"Hacking of online accounts to steal personal information is not merely an intrusion of an individual's privacy but is a serious violation of federal law. Defendant's conduct was a profound intrusion into the privacy of his victims and created vulnerabilities at multiple online service providers."
Majerczyk's plea agreement was lodged today in United States District Court for the Central District of California and will be executed upon transfer of the case to the Northern District of Illinois. According to the factual basis in the plea agreement, from November 23, 2013 through August 2014, Majerczyk engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain usernames and passwords for his victims.
He sent e-mails to victims that appeared to be from security accounts of internet service providers that directed the victims to a website that would collect the victims' usernames and passwords. After victims responded by entering information at that website, Majerczyk had access to victims' usernames and passwords.
After illegally accessing the iCloud and Gmail accounts, Majerczyk obtained personal information including sensitive and private photographs and videos, according to his plea agreement.
Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office said:
"This defendant not only hacked into e-mail accounts — he hacked into his victims' private lives, causing embarrassment and lasting harm. As most of us use devices containing private information, cases like this remind us to protect our data. Members of society whose information is in demand can be even more vulnerable, and directly targeted."
The charge against Majerczyk stems from the investigation into the leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities in September 2014, popularly referred to as "The Fappening" on Reddit and other social media sites. However, investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Majerczyk to the actual leaks. Many of Majerczyk's victims were members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.
By illegally accessing the e-mail accounts, Majerczyk accessed at least 300 accounts, and at least 30 accounts belonging to celebrities.