Richard Gregory Bauer didn’t hide his identity when he gathered information to hack into the email and social media accounts of his female friends, family members and co-workers.
In some cases, the U.S. attorney’s office said, he told them via Facebook that he was working on a class project and posed a series of questions, such as the name of their first pet or the city where their parents met — typical questions used to reset online passwords.
In others, he convinced the women that he needed help testing software but instead had them install malware that gave him unauthorized access to their computers.
Bauer, 28, then scoured their accounts for nude photographs. Once he collected his stash — and even if he found nothing — he sent the women anonymous messages threatening to distribute the photographs unless they sent him more explicit pictures.
Now the former NASA contractor is facing several years in federal prison.
Bauer pleaded guilty Thursday to three charges: stalking, computer hacking and aggravated identity theft, the U.S. attorney’s office said. He is scheduled to be sentenced in December.
Stephen Kahn, an attorney representing Bauer, said Thursday that his client did not publish any of the photos he found and feels remorse for his actions. Kahn said there were circumstances in his client’s life that explain his behavior, but he said he would not elaborate until the sentencing hearing.
According to the plea agreement Bauer reached with prosecutors, his hacking began early in 2015 and continued until this year.
With the answers to the personal questions that he said were for a “human societies class,” Bauer reset passwords, primarily on cloud-based iPhone backups, to access photos, videos and documents with passwords for other accounts. He was able to compromise at least 15 iCloud backups that way.
In one case from January, he sent a woman an email and attached a topless selfie of her.
“I have more,” he wrote, according to the plea agreement. “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, who lives in Los Angeles’ Mid-Wilshire neighborhood, admitted that he sent the threatening messages, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Bauer knew all of the women — friends or acquaintances from high school and college, co-workers and family members. Many times, his threats showed that he knew personal details about their lives, work or family.