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A Pennsylvania man charged with hacking into online accounts of Hollywood celebrities and stealing photos and videos pleaded guilty on Tuesday.
FBI agents identified Ryan Collins, 36, during the 2014 “Celebgate” investigation into the posting of stolen, nude celebrity photos on the Internet, the Daily Mail reported. Collins, lives in Lancaster and is the father of two children, pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Collins used a phishing scheme, federal prosecutors said, to gather the user names and passwords of Hollywood stars by sending them emails that appeared to be from Apple or Google, asking the account-holders for their log-in data, according to The Los Angeles Times.
He was then able to gain access to at least 50 Apple accounts and 72 Gmail accounts, collecting private information that included court documents, videos and nude photos of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, according to the Mail.
“We continue to see both celebrities and victims from all walks of life suffer the consequences of this crime and strongly encourage users of Internet-connected devices to strengthen passwords and to be skeptical when replying to emails asking for personal information,” assistant director of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, David Bowdich said, according to the Times.
No celebrity names have been revealed and according to authorities, there is no evidence that Collins shared or posted any of the stolen images and information. In a filed plea agreement, the case has been transferred to federal court in Harrisburg, near Collins’ home, where he will appear for sentencing.
Prosecutors are recommending that he serve a prison term of 18 months, but the sentencing judge is not bound by that and may instead impose the statutory penalty of five years in prison, the Times reported.
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