An Illinois man has been charged with hacking into more than 300 email and iCloud accounts, including several belonging to celebrities, authorities said Friday.
Edward Majerczyk, 28, of Chicago, is accused in a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to hundreds of Gmail and iCloud accounts, including at least 30 accounts that belong to celebrities, according to the Department of Justice.
According to authorities, from Nov. 23, 2013 through August 2014, Majerczyk sent emails to victims that appeared to be from security accounts of internet service providers, directing them to a website that would collect their usernames and passwords. Through the scheme, Majerczyk was able to access the victims' personal information, including sensitive and private photographs and videos, officials said.
The charge against Majerczyk stems from an investigation into the leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities in September 2014 known as "Celebgate." Investigators, however, have not found evidence linking Majerczyk to the leaks.
“This defendant not only hacked into e-mail accounts – he hacked into his victims’ private lives, causing embarrassment and lasting harm,” Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said in a statement. “As most of us use devices containing private information, cases like this remind us to protect our data. Members of society whose information is in demand can be even more vulnerable, and directly targeted.”
Authorities said Majerczyk agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information as part of a plea deal Friday, officials said. Though he was charged in Los Angeles, the case is being transferred to the Northern District of Illinois, where Majerczyk is expected to enter a guilty plea and be sentenced.
He faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
“Hacking of online accounts to steal personal information is not merely an intrusion of an individual’s privacy but is a serious violation of federal law,” United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement. “Defendant’s conduct was a profound intrusion into the privacy of his victims and created vulnerabilities at multiple online service providers.”
It was not immediately clear if Majerczyk had an attorney.