Aging prisoners. Photo via lawyerherald.com
Aging prisoners. Photo via lawyerherald.com

A hacker who orchestrated a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to more than 300 email accounts — including dozens belonging to members of the entertainment industry — was sentenced Tuesday to nine months in federal prison.

Edward Majerczyk, 29, of Chicago and Orland Park, Illinois, also was ordered to pay $5,700 in restitution for counseling services for one undisclosed celebrity victim whose photos were disseminated online, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The case was investigated by FBI agents based in Los Angeles, and the plea agreement was negotiated by Los Angeles prosecutors. The case was transferred to the Northern District of Illinois for the entry of his guilty plea and sentencing because the defendant lives in the area.

Majerczyk pleaded guilty in September to one federal count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information — a charge which carries a prison sentence of up to five years — but both sides agreed to recommend a nine-month term, according to prosecutors.

The names of Majerczyk’s victims were not made public.

From November 2013 through August 2014, Majerczyk engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain usernames and passwords for his victims, sending email messages that appeared to be from Apple or Google.

When they responded, Majerczyk then had access to the victims’ email accounts, from which he obtained personal information, including nude photographs and videos.

The charge against Majerczyk stemmed 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, or that he shared or uploaded the information he obtained.

By illegally accessing the email accounts, Majerczyk gained entry to at least 300 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts, including over 30 that belonged to celebrities, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“This defendant not only hacked into email accounts, he hacked into his victims’ private lives, causing embarrassment and lasting harm,” Deirdre Fike, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said previously.

“As most of us use devices containing private information, cases like this remind us to protect our data,” she said. “Members of society whose information is in demand can be even more vulnerable, and directly targeted.”

—City News Service

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