Arts & Entertainment

Accused Celebrity Email Hacker Pleads Guilty

Cyber CrimeCrimeEntertainmentCrime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemScarlett JohanssonJacksonville (Duval, Florida)

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) -- A Florida man accused of hacking into emails of several celebrities, including Scarlett Johansson, pleaded guilty in a downtown L.A. courtroom on Monday.

Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, pleaded guilty to nine counts of computer hacking and wiretapping for the unauthorized access of email accounts belonging to 50 people in the entertainment industry.

Chaney was immediately taken into custody.

Sentencing was scheduled for July 23. Chaney faces up to 60 years in prison, fines and restitution of about $2.5 million.

The federal charges against Chaney include unauthorized access and damage to a protected computer and wiretapping.

Chaney was accused of hacking into e-mail accounts and devices belonging to more than 50 people, including Christina Aguilera, Simone Harouche and Renee Olstead, prosecutors said.

Authorities allege that once Chaney hacked into a celebrity's e-mail account, he would use the contact lists to find other celebrities' e-mail accounts.

He accessed nude photos of some of the celebrities, and a circulated nude photo of Johansson was part of the federal investigation, according to prosecutors.

Authorities allege that Chaney distributed photos of the celebrities that he obtained illegally, and offered them to various websites, but he didn't seek any money in exchange.

Some of the illegally obtained files were ultimately posted online "as a result of Chaney's alleged activities," authorities said in a statement issued last year.

Chaney also used public sources to mine data about his victims, which included both males and females, all associated with the entertainment industry, authorities said.

Chaney has said he is ready to face the consequences for his years of hacking.

"I deeply apologize. I know what I did was probably one of the worst invasions of privacy someone could experience," Chaney told WAWS/WTEV in Jacksonville, Florida, in October 2011.

Chaney said he started hacking as a curiosity and it "snowballed." He said he "didn't know how to stop."

"I was almost relieved when they came in and took the computers inside," he said.

The FBI's L.A. office said Chaney's arrest was part of "Operation 'Hackerazzi,'" which involved computer intrusions targeting individuals in the entertainment industry.

The federal probe began in 2010, after allegations of people hacking into phones and computers belonging to several Hollywood celebrities.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Cyber CrimeCrimeEntertainmentCrime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemScarlett JohanssonJacksonville (Duval, Florida)
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