Illinois Man Pleads Guilty to Hacking Apple iCloud and Gmail Accounts Belonging to More Than 300 People, including Many Celebrities
CHICAGO – An Illinois man pled guilty yesterday to 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, who resides in Chicago and Orland Park, Illinois, was charged on July 1 in a criminal information filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Majerczyk pled guilty yesterday in United States District Court in Chicago to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, specifically, one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information.
The court set Majerczyk’s sentencing hearing for January 10, 2017. At the time of sentencing, Majerczyk will face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
“This defendant invaded the privacy of hundreds of victims, stealing extremely personal data,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Defendant’s violation of federal law harmed both his individual victims, whose private matters were unknowingly exposed to the defendant, and the Internet Service Providers, which were entrusted with the victims’ personal data and forced to remediate defendant’s intrusions.”
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.
“The defendant's acceptance of responsibility for his role in the intrusion of his victims' accounts and their personal lives is a welcome development in this continuing investigation," said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “All of us who use personal phones or devices must protect our data with strong passwords and two-factor authentication, as well as to be cautious of solicitations that can compromise our private information."
The charge against Majerczyk stems from the investigation into the leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities in September 2014 known as “Celebgate.” 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. Majerczyk accessed at least 300 accounts, and at least 30 accounts belonging to celebrities.
The case against Majerczyk is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Los Angeles. The case was brought by Assistant United States Attorneys Ryan White and Vicki Chou of the Los Angeles United States Attorney’s Office.