Illinois Man Who Illegally Accessed Email Belonging to More Than 300 People, including Many Celebrities, Sentenced to Federal Prison
LOS ANGELES – An Illinois man who admitted responsibility for 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, has been sentenced to nine months in federal prison.
Edward Majerczyk, 29, of Chicago, was sentenced yesterday in Chicago by United States District Judge Charles P. Kocoras, who said the defendant’s crime was “abhorrent.”
Majerczyk pleaded guilty in September to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, specifically, one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information. Majerczyk was charged by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, but the case was transferred to the Northern District of Illinois, where the defendant pleaded guilty and was sentenced.
“This defendant engaged in a computer hacking scheme that not only gave him access to his victims’ computers, it also gave him access to the most personal details of their lives,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This was a deep intrusion into the victims’ privacy and a violation of federal law.”
According to a plea agreement filed in this case, 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.
“Mr. Majerczyk manipulated hundreds of victims by tricking them into providing access to their accounts, including high-profile victims whose information was specifically targeted,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The lasting harm this type of intrusion can cause to celebrities and non-celebrities alike cannot be overstated, and this case should serve as a necessary reminder to all of us that it is dangerous to respond to unsolicited e-mails in which our personal information is requested.”
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.
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 indicating that Majerczyk was responsible for any of the postings of celebrity photographs.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Kocoras ordered Majerczyk to pay $5,700 in restitution to one victim whose photos were published on the Internet. Majerczyk was ordered to begin serving his sentence by February 27.
The case against Majerczyk is the product of an ongoing investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was filed by Assistant United States Attorneys Ryan White and Vicki Chou of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section. The sentencing hearing was handled by Chicago-based Assistant United States Attorney Raj Laud.