A man who was among those who allegedly hacked into the iCloud account of Hunger Games actress Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities such as Kate Upton and Kirsten Dunst has pleaded guilty in Connecticut federal court.
According to federal prosecutors, George Garofano, 26, “admitted he sent victims in [California and Connecticut] emails that appeared to be from Apple security accounts” that encouraged them to share their log-in information, the Connecticut Law Tribune reported. As part of the phishing scheme, he thus allegedly obtained the victims’ usernames and passwords for their iCloud accounts.
Under facts set forth in the plea agreement, Garofano allegedly used the credentials to log into the victims’ iCloud accounts to steal private, personal data, including nude photographs and videos. Authorities also claim that he would also allegedly trade the usernames and passwords, as well as content, with other hackers.
Reportedly, 200-plus accounts may have been compromised.
Garofano was originally arrested in Los Angeles, but he requested the case be transferred to his home state of Connecticut. On Tuesday, after waiving his right to be indicted, he pleaded guilty in court to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information, and was released on a $50,000 bond. The violation carries a maximum sentence of five years behind bars. Sentencing in Bridgeport, Connecticut, federal court will occur later this year at a date to be determined.
Three other suspects have already pleaded guilty in connection with the same hacking event in what became known as Celebgate or “The Fappening.” Their sentences ranged from nine months to 18 months in prison, Cyberscoop noted.
Garofano’s attorney told the Law Tribune that his client has no criminal record and that a group of criminal hackers duped him into the phishing scheme. He added that he plans to argue for a suspended sentence. This story will be updated as additional developments emerge, so please check back for updates.
In a 2014 interview, Jennifer Lawrence described the hacking as a sex crime rather than a scandal and called the data theft disgusting, CBS News reported. Evidently, the intimate photos in question were intended to be seen only by her then-boyfriend.
“Although many of Garofano’s victims were A-listers, including Gabrielle Union, Kaley Cuoco and soccer star Hope Solo, many non-celebrities who live in Connecticut were also targeted, according to officials,” the Daily Mail added.
Since then, Apple has encouraged users to enable two-factor authentication and set up other security measures.