A 28-year-old Los Angeles man was sentenced Monday to more than four years in federal prison for hacking into women’s email, social media accounts and computers to access nude photos that he then used to harass them for other explicit pictures.
Prosecutors said Richard Gregory Bauer, a former NASA contractor, didn’t conceal his identity as he spent years gathering information to hack into the accounts of his female friends, family members, high school and college acquaintances and co-workers.
In several cases, prosecutors said he told the women via Facebook that he was working on a “human societies” project for a class and posed a series of questions such as the make and model of their first car, the name of their first pet or the city where their parents met. He then used that information to reset passwords and gain access to online accounts, including a cloud-based system that stores data from cellphones.
In other instances, Bauer told women he needed help testing software that he had developed, but instead had them install malware that gave him unauthorized access to their computers.
From 2015 through early last year, Bauer scoured their digital presence for nude photographs and videos. After he collected the pictures — and sometimes even when he found nothing — he sent the women anonymous messages threatening to publish the photographs unless they sent him more.
In one case, he sent a woman an email and attached a topless selfie of her, according to a plea agreement filed in court.
“I have more,” he wrote. “If you don’t want them public I suggest you respond to this. This is not a joke.”
He then demanded four more photos of her daily, the agreement said. “If you do this, those pictures will not go public. What is your answer?” he wrote.
Bauer pleaded guilty last year to stalking, computer hacking and aggravated identity theft charges. Prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum that Bauer went through significant effort to gather information and that his “crimes represent a long-running course of behavior, not a one-off event, or for that matter a brief spree.”
Stephen Kahn, an attorney representing Bauer, requested that his client be sentenced to a lesser prison term of just over two years based, in part, on his willingness to cooperate with law enforcement, his contrition over the incidents and his agreement to partake in long-term counseling.
Kahn wrote in the sentencing memorandum that Bauer’s “most aggressive behavior, insisting that the victims provide him a series of nude photographs, occurred after he had been prescribed Keppra, a powerful anti-seizure drug used to treat epilepsy.” Bauer’s mother said her son was more aggressive after he started taking the drug, Kahn wrote.
However, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter called the crimes “disgusting and harmful” and imposed a sentence of 57 months in prison during the hearing Monday, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Bauer wrote a letter to the court apologizing to the women he targeted, law enforcement and his family.
“Words cannot describe how sorry I am that I put you through this,” he wrote to the women. “You were completely innocent and through my deceptive and manipulative actions, I took something of yours that I had absolutely no right to. The fear that I put you through was reprehensible, and I’m so sorry that I did that to you.