- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2016

Federal prosecutors are seeking a 9-month prison sentence for a Chicago man who admitted hacking the personal internet accounts of dozens of celebrities in 2014, the city’s Tribune newspaper reported Wednesday.

Edward Majerczyk, 28, was charged last month with one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer in connection with an investigation into the “Celebgate” photo leak scandal in which several Hollywood actresses had their personal, sometimes nude images circulated on the web.

Mr. Majerczyk signed a document in Los Angeles federal court last month agreeing to plead guilty to the single count of computer hacking in exchange for facing a maximum sentence of five years behind bars. His attorneys had the case transferred to Chicago last Friday, and is now expected to formally enter his guilty plea on Sept. 27 before Judge Charles P. Kocoras in the Northern District of Illinois.

Prosecutors have agreed to ask for no more than a nine-month prison sentence when the hacker’s plea is officially entered later this month on account of his lack of previous convictions and willingness to accept responsibility for his actions, the Chicago Tribune reported.

According to a draft plea agreement, Mr. Majerczykused a phishing scheme to trick dozens of celebrities into giving him access to their personal internet accounts. Posing as a fictitious member of either Apple of Google’s security team, the hacker sent emails to hundreds of targets in which recipients were instructed to click a link in order to change their passwords as the result of an apparent security breach. Mr. Majerczyk then used those credentials to log himself into the victims’ accounts and pilfer personal correspondence and attachments, the agreement acknowledged.

Investigators say the hacker gain unauthorized access to over 300 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts, including at least 30 belonging to celebrities. His victims are not identified by name in court filings, but the probe was opened in 2014 after actresses including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Lea Michele saw their personal photos surface on the internet.

“Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this. It does not mean that it comes with the territory,” Ms. Lawrence told Vanity Fair previously, adding that she believed the photo breach constituted a “sex crime.”

Prosecutors only believe Mr. Majerczyk breached the accounts and have not charged him with leaking them online. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, told the Associated Press this week that an investigation into the leak remains active.

Separately, 36-year-old Ryan Collins of Pennsylvania pleaded guilty in May to participating in a similar phishing scheme that targeted the email accounts of actresses breached as a result of the Celebgate scandal and is awaiting sentencing. Investigators say the two men acted independently of one another.

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