Oregon Man Sentenced to Prison for Hacking into Hundreds of E-Mail Accounts and Stealing Personal Photos Belonging to Victims
LOS ANGELES – An Oregon man was sentenced today to six months in federal prison for a computer hacking scheme that gave him illegal access to 363 Apple and Google e-mail accounts, including those belonging to members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.
Andrew Helton, 29, of Portland, Oregon, was sentenced today by United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt, who also ordered the defendant to pay a $3,000 fine.
Helton pleaded guilty in February to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information. He admitted that he ran a phishing scheme from March 2011 to May 2013 in which he was able to collect approximately 448 usernames and passwords for 363 e-mail accounts.
“For over two years, Helton targeted unsuspecting victims with phishing e-mails that gave him full access to their private e-mail accounts,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “He systematically searched for and stole intimate images and stored them in his own computer for personal use, which meant the victims continued to suffer as a result of his voyeurism. Helton's crime was a deep invasion of privacy that caused real harm."
In the scheme, Helton sent fraudulent e-mails that resembled legitimate e-mails from Apple or Google to hundreds of victims asking them to “verify” their accounts. Helton sent the phishing e-mails to acquaintances, strangers, and celebrities living in the Los Angeles area. When victims clicked on the link provided, they were taken to bogus websites resembling Apple or Google log-in pages, where they were prompted to enter their usernames and passwords. After that, Helton had full access to their accounts.
After gaining access to the victims’ accounts, Helton scoured their e-mails and found 161 sexually explicit, nude and/or partially nude images of approximately 13 victims, which included some celebrities. Helton saved these images to his personal computer.
“Whether a victim of cyber intrusion is a celebrity or not, the lasting distress resulting from the privacy violation is the same,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI reminds users of computers and personal devices to report suspicious activity to ic3.gov and to protect their private information by verifying the authenticity of websites before providing personal data online.”
Helton was ordered to begin serving his prison sentence by October 11.
The case against Helton is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie S. Christensen of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.