Former NASA Contractor Arrested on Charges Alleging Hacking and Online Threats Made to Obtain Nude Photos of Female Victims
LOS ANGELES – Federal authorities this morning arrested a Los Angeles man on federal charges that allege he targeted seven women with online threats to publish nude photos unless the victims provided him with additional explicit pictures.
Richard Gregory Bauer, 28, a former contractor at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, and who used several aliases including “Steve Smith,” “John Smith,” and “Garret,” was arrested by special agents with NASA’s Office of Inspector General.
Bauer was arrested at his Mid-Wilshire residence without incident pursuant to a 14-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on August 28. The indictment charges Bauer with stalking, unauthorized access to a protected computer, and aggravated identity theft.
The indictment alleges that over the past several years, Bauer, who until recently lived in the High Desert communities of Palmdale and Lancaster, harassed the victims on Facebook and through emails. In the communications in which Bauer masked his identity, Bauer claimed to possess nude photos of the victims, which he did in relation to six of the seven victims discussed in the indictment. Bauer sent the victims nude photos of themselves, claimed to have additional photos, and threatened to post the nude photos of the victims online unless the women sent him additional photos in various stages of undress.
Bauer is also charged in the indictment with unauthorized access to computers and accounts owned by victims. During the course of the alleged stalking, according to the indictment, Bauer, using his true identity, contacted some victims on Facebook and posed a series of questions, purportedly as part of a project he was working on for his “human societies class.” Some of the questions included typical questions used to reset online passwords, such as the name of your first pet or the city where your parents met.
In other instances, again using his true identity, Bauer allegedly convinced victims to install malware by claiming that he needed the victims’ help in testing software he claimed to have written. The malware gave Bauer unauthorized access to the computers, and allowed him, among other things, to capture from the victims’ computers passwords for web sites and e-mail accounts. On at least two instances, Bauer is alleged to have used logins and passwords belonging to victims to log on to their Facebook and Google email accounts.
Bauer is expected to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
If convicted of the 14 charges in the indictment, Bauer would face a statutory maximum sentence of 64 years in federal prison.
This case is the result of an ongoing investigation being conducted by NASA’s Office of Inspector General. Members of the public who have information about Bauer’s online activities or believe they may be victims of his activities are encouraged to contact NASA OIG Special Agent Joseph Bennett at (818) 354-9768.
This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Khaldoun Shobaki of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.