LOS ANGELES – An Illinois man was charged today with a felony computer hacking offense stemming from a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to more than 550 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts, including those belonging to entertainment industry figures.
Emilio Herrera, 32, of Chicago, has signed a plea agreement and is expected to plead guilty to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Herrera agreed to plead guilty to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information.
Although Herrera was charged today in Los Angeles, the parties have agreed to transfer the case to the Northern District of Illinois for the entry of his guilty plea and sentencing. Once he enters the guilty plea, Herrera will face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
According to the plea agreement, which was lodged today in federal court in Los Angeles, Herrera engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain usernames and passwords for his victims. From April 27, 2013 until the end of August 2014, Herrera sent e-mails to victims that appeared to be from security accounts of internet service providers and encouraged the victims to send him their usernames and passwords. After victims responded, Herrera used the usernames and passwords to illegally access his victims’ iCloud and Gmail accounts. Once inside their accounts, Herrera had access to personal information, including sensitive and private photographs and videos, according to his plea agreement.
The case against Herrera stems from the investigation into the leaks of photographs of female celebrities in September 2014. However, investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Herrera to the actual leaks or establishing that Herrera shared or uploaded the information he obtained.
With the filing of the case against Herrera, the investigation has now resulted in three cases against defendants around the nation. Another Illinois man was sentenced earlier this year to federal prison. In the third case, a Pennsylvania man was sentenced one year ago to 18 months in prison.
The case against Herrera is the product of an ongoing investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ryan White and Vicki Chou of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.