Chicagoan gets prison for ‘Celebgate’ nude-photo hacking that judge calls ‘abhorrent’
On Tuesday, the soft-spoken Majerczyk was sentenced to nine months in prison for a breach of privacy that a federal judge called “abhorrent.”
A son of two retired Chicago police officers, Majerczyk, 29, admitted playing a key role in the “Celebgate” hacking scandal that resulted in the online posting of dozens of nude photos of celebrities, including actress Jennifer Lawrence, model Kate Upton and U.S. soccer star Hope Solo.
In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras said cyberattacks like the one orchestrated by Majerczyk are a consequence of living in a world that “inspires secrecy and anonymity and intrusion into the affairs of people’s private lives.”
“The conduct is abhorrent,” Kocoras said. “It’s a very, very trying time that we live in.”
In addition to the prison term, Majerczyk was also ordered to pay $5,700 in restitution to cover counseling services for one undisclosed celebrity victim whose images were disseminated online, although he was not accused of posting any of the images himself.
The nine-month prison term was agreed to by prosecutors and Majerczyk’s attorney as part of a plea deal to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information, a charge that carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
“I will never stop striving to do better and to be better,” said Majerczyk, reading quickly and calmly from a sheet of paper.
Escorted by his father, Majerczyk, who was ordered to report to prison Feb. 27, left the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse without comment as television news crews trailed him down Dearborn Street.
In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Raj Laud said that in addition to celebrities, Majerczyk also targeted “people he came across in his life,” something the prosecutor referred to as “troubling.”
Laud said that after Majercyzk pleaded guilty in September, two celebrity victims whose photos were disseminated contacted the U.S. attorney’s office seeking restitution for the cost of having their images taken down from various websites. One of the victims also asked to be reimbursed for $11,400 in counseling services she sought after nude images of her went public.
U.S. authorities investigating the ‘Celebgate’ photo-hacking scandal have seized computers and cellphones from a small home in Chicago, according to court documents. June 10, 2015. (AP)
Kocoras said Majerczyk could not be held responsible for the costs to have the images removed but ordered him to pay half of the counseling bill — $5,700.
Majerczyk, of the Southwest Side, admitted using a phishing scheme to illegally gain access to more than 300 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts from November 2013 to August 2014, including at least 30 belonging to celebrities in the Los Angeles area.
According to his plea agreement, Majerczyk sent emails to victims that appeared to be from security accounts of internet service providers seeking the victims’ usernames and passwords. For those who provided that private information, he then illegally accessed their email accounts and obtained “personal information including sensitive and private photographs and videos,” the plea deal said.
Majerczyk was not accused of selling the material or posting any of it online himself. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles has said that the investigation into who leaked the sensitive information was ongoing.
As many as 100 celebrities were targeted as part of Celebgate, including Kirsten Dunst as well as Upton and her boyfriend, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander. Many of the embarrassing and intimate photos were posted on websites like Reddit and 4chan.
Also targeted was the Oscar-winning actress Lawrence, who broke down at a meeting with federal agents in September 2014 about nude photos of her that had been splashed on the internet as part of Celebgate.
“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 about the meeting with Lawrence in Los Angeles. “(She) stated she was having an anxiety attack, and was visibly shaken.”
In an interview with Vanity Fair in 2014, Lawrence called the breach of her privacy a “sex crime.”
“I was just so afraid. I didn’t know how this would affect my career,” Lawrence told the magazine. “Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this. It does not mean that it comes with the territory.”
Records show agents raided Majerczyk’s apartment just a few blocks from Midway Airport on Oct. 15, 2014, about two months after Lawrence had reported that her iCloud account was hacked. Agents seized several desktop and laptop computers, a MacBook and numerous thumb drives, and external hard drives.
Majerczyk’s lawyer, Thomas Needham, has described him as an “intensely private” person. In a court filing last week, Needham wrote that at the time Majerczyk took part in hacking, he was “suffering from depression and looked to pornography websites and internet chat rooms in an attempt to fill some of the voids and disappointment he was feeling in his life.”
Needham said in his sentencing memo that Majerczyk was “deeply affected” by the fallout of the Celebgate scandal and had to see a therapist for anxiety and panic attacks. He also has an 11-year-old son who lives with the boy’s mother, Needham said.
Majerczyk was not the only one facing prison for the scandal. In October, Ryan Collins, 37, of Lancaster, Pa., was sentenced to 18 months in prison for a similar scheme to hack more than 600 celebrity accounts for “his own sexual gratification,” court records show. Authorities have said he was working independently of Majerczyk.
Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago man gets 9 months in celebrity nude photo hack
CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago man was sentenced Tuesday to nine months in prison for hacking the electronic accounts of 30 celebrities and stealing private information, including nude videos and photos.
Edward Majerczyk, 29, also was ordered to pay $5,700 in restitution for counseling services for one undisclosed celebrity victim whose photos were disseminated online.
Majerczyk is accused of orchestrating a “phishing scheme” that illegally accessed more than 300 email and other online accounts, including those belonging to actress Jennifer Lawrence.
According to his plea deal, Majerczyk sent emails to his victims that appeared to have come from internet service providers seeking usernames and passwords. Majerczyk illegally accessed the accounts of those people who provided that information.
Majerczyk pleaded guilty in federal court in Los Angeles last year to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information. He signed a plea agreement for his case to be transferred to Chicago. He was not charged or accused of selling or posting the material online.
Both sides agreed he should receive a 9-month prison term. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Majerczyk’s attorney Thomas Needham said in a court filing that his client was “suffering from depression and looked to pornography websites and internet chat rooms in an attempt to fill some of the voids and disappointment he was feeling in his life.”
Needham said in a sentencing memo that the fallout from the hacking scandal “deeply affected” Majerczyk, who has seen a therapist for anxiety and panic attacks.
Federal agents have said Lawrence broke down and became distraught during a 2014 meeting about nude photos of her that appeared online. Lawrence called the leak a “sex crime” in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine.
As with Majerczyk, Collins was not charged with actually sharing or uploading the private photos of female celebrities online.
Source: USA Today
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