An alleged hacker suspected of orchestrating a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to more than 500 email accounts — including dozens belonging to members of the entertainment industry — was charged Monday in Los Angeles with federal computer crimes to which he is expected to plead guilty.
Emilio Herrera, 32, of Chicago has signed a plea agreement indicating he will plead guilty to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, specifically one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Although Herrera was charged in Los Angeles, the parties have agreed to transfer the case to the Northern District of Illinois for the entry of his guilty plea — he faces up to five years in federal prison — and sentencing.
According to the plea agreement, which was lodged in federal court in Los Angeles, Herrera engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain user names and passwords for his victims. From April 27, 2013, until the end of August 2014, Herrera sent emails that appeared to be from security accounts of internet service providers and encouraged the recipients to send him their user names and passwords.
After victims responded, Herrera used their user names and passwords to illegally access their iCloud and Gmail accounts, according to court papers. 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 an 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 he 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 a year ago to 18 months in prison.
–City News Service
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