“Celebgate” hacker Ryan Collins has pleaded guilty to hacking the email accounts of numerous female stars including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Kirsten Dunst. Lawrence has called the invasion and the subsequent leak of nude photos a “sex crime.”
Collins, from Lancaster, PA, pleaded guilty this morning in United States District Court in Harrisburg, PA. The case against him had been investigated by FBI agents based in Los Angeles, and the plea agreement was negotiated by prosecutors in the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. Sentencing as not been scheduled, but he faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Collins engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain usernames and passwords for his victims over a two-year period beginning in November 2012. He sent emails to victims that appeared to be from Apple or Google and asked victims to provide their usernames and passwords. When the victims responded, Collins then had access to the victims’ email accounts. After illegally accessing the accounts, Collins obtained personal information including nude photographs and videos. In some instances, Collins would use a software program to download the entire contents of the victims’ Apple iCloud backups.
Many of Collins’ victims were members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. By illegally accessing their accounts, he accessed at least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts, most of which belonged to female celebrities.
To date, however, investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the actual leak of the nude photos, or any proof that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained. That investigation is ongoing.