A 19-year-old man who pleaded guilty Tuesday to a “sextortion” scheme involving naked photos and videos of at least a dozen women, including Miss Teen USA, faces up to 33 months in federal prison.
The guilty plea comes less than two months after the family of Temecula college freshman Jared James Abrahams apologized through an attorney for "the consequences of his behavior.”
Abrahams pleaded guilty to four federal crimes, including extortion and unauthorized access of a computer, in a case involving victims from their late teens to their early 20s around the globe.
Among them was Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf, who went public with the effort to extort her.
Abrahams’ attorney, Alan Eisner, told The Times that his client was cooperative with law enforcement throughout the investigation and “gave them a full and complete admission.”
Abrahams, Eisner added, is autistic, and is “socially disconnected,” although there is “no good reason for his activities.”
“We are not looking to blame his conduct on that,” Eisner said.
In his plea Tuesday, Abrahams admitted to taking over women’s webcams to capture naked images of them and then blackmailing them for more.
The criminal complaint identifies at least seven victims by initials only -- some of whom, including Wolf, he knew personally. He acknowledged infecting the computers with malware, watching his victims change their clothes and using the photographs to extract more images, according to the affidavit.
The FBI had been investigating Abrahams since March, officials said, when authorities learned he compromised victims’ computers to obtain nude photographs and, in some cases, videos of the victims by remotely operating their Web-enabled cameras.
The investigation was sparked after Wolf alerted authorities to a change in her Facebook password and a “sextortion” demand, law enforcement sources said.
The criminal complaint states that Abrahams changed Wolf’s Twitter account photo to a half-naked image of her and then sent her two images, showing her naked, that were taken inside her home by her webcams months before.
Wolf said the images came with an attempt to extort her to ensure that the photos were not made public.
In each case, officials said, Abrahams contacted the victims using two AOL accounts he had taken over, and sent them nude photos to show what he had obtained. Abrahams is said to have threatened to disclose the images and videos unless the women did one of three things: send nude photos, send a nude video or log on to Skype and do what he said for five minutes.
Authorities said that when FBI agents raided his Temecula home in June and seized computers and hardware, cellphones and hacking software, they found evidence to show he had gained unauthorized access to computers of victims in Southern California, Maryland, Ireland, Canada, Russia and Moldova.
According to court records, at least one of the victims is a minor.