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Illinois man sentenced to nine months in celebrity hacking case

By Timothy Mclaughlin

By Timothy Mclaughlin

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An Illinois man was sentenced to nine months in federal prison on Tuesday for breaking into the email and online storage of celebrities to obtain their private photos and videos, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Edward Majerczyk, 29, who pleaded guilty to felony computer hacking charges last year, will begin serving his sentence on Feb. 27, said Joseph Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for Zach Fardon, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Majerczyk's attorney, Thomas Needham, could not immediately be reached for comment.

While no victims were named in court documents, the investigation began after Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities, including actresses Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union and model Kate Upton, complained in interviews about having their private photos end up publicly disseminated online.

"At the time of the offense, Mr. Majerczyk 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 wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed on Jan. 19.

Needham added that Majerczyk had "consistently expressed remorse," for the hacking.

Majerczyk pleaded guilty in September to federal computer hacking charges but, the Justice Department and Needham said investigators had not uncovered any evidence linking Majerczyk to the actual leaks.

The hacked material was for Majerczyk's personal use and his viewing, Needham said in the memorandum.

According to a plea agreement signed by Majerczyk, he illegally accessed accounts on Apple Inc's iCloud and Alphabet Inc's Google Gmail accounts belonging to more than 300 people, using an email "phishing" ploy to obtain their user names and passwords.

Through this scheme, Majerczyk was able to access full iCloud backups belonging to numerous victims, including at least 30 celebrities, many of whom reside in the Los Angeles area, the plea agreement stated.

Majerczyk, who resides in Chicago and Orland Park, Illinois, was originally charged in Los Angeles, but his case was transferred to Illinois as part of his plea agreement.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

 

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