John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that GEORGE GAROFANO, 26, of North Branford, waived his right to be indicted and pleaded guilty yesterday before U.S. District Judge Victor A. Bolden in Bridgeport to a computer hacking offense related to a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to more than 200 Apple iCloud accounts, many of which belonged to members of the entertainment industry.
This matter stems from an investigation conducted by the FBI in Los Angeles into the leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities in September 2014. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, which is leading the prosecution, filed charges against GAROFANO on January 11, 2018. The parties agreed to transfer the case to the District of Connecticut for further prosecution.
According to court documents and statements made in court, from April 2013 through October 2014, GAROFANO engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain usernames and passwords for iCloud accounts. GAROFANO admitted that he sent e-mails to victims that appeared to be from security accounts of Apple and encouraged the victims to send him their usernames and passwords, or to enter them on a third-party website, where he would later retrieve them. GAROFANO used the usernames and passwords to access his victims’ iCloud accounts, which allowed him to steal personal information, including sensitive and private photographs and videos. In some instances, GAROFANO traded the usernames and passwords, as well as the materials he stole from the victims, with other individuals.
By illegally accessing the iCloud accounts, GAROFANO gained access to approximately 240 accounts. Although many of GAROFANO’s victims were members of the entertainment industry in California, many non-celebrities who live in Connecticut were also victimized.
GAROFANO pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years. A sentencing date is not scheduled.
GAROFANO is released on a $50,000 bond.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neeraj Patel of the District of Connecticut, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan White of the Central District of California.