A onetime NASA contractor was sentenced Monday to nearly five years behind bars for stalking women online with threats to publish nude photos unless they provided him with additional explicit pictures.
Richard Gregory Bauer, 28, of Los Angeles, a former contractor at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, must also serve three years under supervised release after completing his federal prison term. U.S. District Judge John F. Walter allowed Bauer to self-surrender on April 15 to begin his sentence.
Apologizing to the women he stalked, many of whom wrote victim impact letters to the judge that were filed under seal, Bauer said that he “did not fully understand how much pain I put you through.”
In arguing for a minimal sentence, Bauer’s attorney contended that the defendant’s “most aggressive” conduct was triggered by an anti-epileptic medication he was taking at the time.
“This is one of the more inexplicable cases that I’ve been involved in. It was bizarre and crazy and hurtful,” defense attorney Stephen Kahn told the judge. He also pointed out that his client never actually published any of the photos he extorted from the women, despite his threats to do so.
But Walter said Bauer’s “disgusting and harmful” conduct involving multiple women he knew required the 57-month prison sentence.
Bauer pleaded guilty in October to three felonies — stalking, unauthorized access to a protected computer, and aggravated identity theft. The identity theft count carries a mandatory two-year minimum sentence.
He admitted using phony identities to harass female friends, family members, co-workers, acquaintances from high school and college, and friends of friends.
In emails to six women, Bauer sent previously obtained nude photos of the women, claimed to have additional photos, and threatened to leak the images online unless they sent him new pictures of themselves in various stages of undress.
“I want four pictures of you daily,” Bauer wrote to one of his victims, demanding that she be “naked,” although “your face doesn’t have to be visible,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Khaldoun Shobaki told the court at the plea hearing.
Bauer’s threats caused “substantial emotional distress” to the victims, the prosecutor said.
Bauer used Facebook to send questions to his victims for a purported survey, requesting answers to password reset questions such as pets’ names and where the women’s parents met. He would then access their accounts, sometimes discovering nude or semi-nude photographs.
In other instances, Bauer convinced victims to install malware by claiming that he needed their help in testing software he claimed to have written, Shobaki explained at the previous hearing in Los Angeles federal court.
The malware gave Bauer unauthorized access to the computers, and allowed him, among other things, to capture from the victims’ computers passwords for web sites and email accounts. In all, more than a dozen accounts were hacked and Bauer collected “numerous” nude photos, the prosecutor said.