The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed Wednesday they were investigating an alleged “sextortion” case involving newly crowned Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf from Orange County and other women.
Laura Eimiller, spokeswoman for the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said the investigation was several months old but would not discuss any details of the case, including whether a suspect had been identified.
Wolf, who was Miss California Teen USA before winning the Miss Teen USA pageant over the weekend at the Atlantis Hotel in the Bahamas, said in media interviews that she received an anonymous email from someone claiming to be in possession of nude photos of her taken via the webcam on her computer.
Wolf also said the author tried to extort her to ensure that the photos were not made public.
The incident, in which someone was able hack into Wolf’s computer and turn on its webcam, is the latest in a string of so-called “sextortion” cases involving individuals who have used email accounts, social media or a computer’s own hardware to glean compromising information or images of its user.
A Glendale man, Karen “Gary” Kazaryan, pleaded guilty last month in a “sextortion” case in which he targeted 350 women and coerced them into showing him pictures of them nude.
Prosecutors alleged Kazaryan hacked into the Facebook, Skype and email accounts of victims and changed their passwords, locking them out of their own online accounts. He then searched emails and other files for naked or semi-naked pictures of the women, as well as other information, such as passwords and the names of their friends.
Kazaryan then posed online as those women and sent instant messages to their friends, convincing them to remove their clothing so he could view and take pictures of them, authorities alleged.
Once the victims learned that someone had impersonated their friend, Kazaryan then used the photos to coerce them to remove their clothing on camera, according to authorities.
In December, a Florida man who hacked into email accounts and procured naked images of celebrities, including Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera and Scarlett Johansson, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Christopher Chaney, 35, pleaded guilty in federal court in Los Angeles to nine counts of computer hacking and wiretapping for the unauthorized access of email accounts belonging to 50 people in the entertainment industry.
Once Chaney got photos of the celebrities and other information, he forwarded the material to another hacker and two celebrity websites that made them public, according to a plea agreement made public last year.
Chaney has admitted that from at least November 2010 to October 2011, he hacked into the email accounts of Johansson, Kunis and others by taking their email addresses, clicking on the “Forgot your password?” feature and then resetting the passwords by correctly answering their security questions using publicly available information he found by searching the Internet.