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Prison sentence sought for Illinois man in photo hack case

Associated Press Associated Press 31/08/2016

CHICAGO — Federal court records show that prosecutors are seeking a nine-month prison sentence for an Illinois man accused of hacking into email and electronic accounts of 30 celebrities and stealing private information, including nude videos and photos.

Edward Majerczyk pleaded guilty in federal court in Los Angeles last month to one count of felony computer hacking.

Prosecutors say the 28-year-old used a phishing scheme to illegally access more than 300 email and other online accounts between November 2013 and August 2014.

His process entailed sending emails to victims that appeared to be from security accounts of internet service providers and asked for the victims' user names and passwords. He then illegally accessed the email accounts of those who provided that private information and obtained private photos and videos.

Some of these photos were later leaked on websites such as Reddit and 4chan.org in a scandal known as "Celebgate." As many as 100 celebrities were targeted, including actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Kirsten Dunst as well as model Kate Upton.

Majerczyk isn't accused of selling the material or posting any of it online himself. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, said an investigation into who leaked the sensitive information is ongoing.

Federal agents said Lawrence broke down during a September 2014 meeting about nude photos of her that appeared online.

"She became very distraught and I had to stop the interview at one point because of her emotional reaction to the information being discussed," an FBI agent wrote in a court filing. "(She) stated she was having an anxiety attack, and was visibly shaken."

Majerczyk has signed a plea agreement for his case to be transferred to Chicago and is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 8.

His attorney, Thomas Needham, didn't return the Chicago Tribune's (http://trib.in/2c4x9qX ) numerous calls seeking comment.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com

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