A Chicago man has agreed to plead guilty to hacking into more than 550 computers, including those belonging to many female celebrities. Emilio Herrera signed a plea agreement and is expected to plead guilty to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
The case against Herrera stems from the so-called “Celebgate” investigation into the leaks of photographs of female celebrities in September 2014. Investigators, however, have not uncovered any evidence linking Herrera to the actual leaks, or establishing that Herrera shared or uploaded the information he obtained.
According to the plea agreement, lodged today in federal court in Los Angeles, Herrera engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain usernames and passwords for his victims. From April 27, 2013, until the end of August 2014, he sent emails to victims that appeared to be from security accounts of Internet service providers and encouraged the victims to send him their usernames and passwords. After victims responded, Herrera used their usernames and passwords to illegally access their iCloud and Gmail accounts. Once inside their accounts, he had access to personal information including sensitive and private photographs and videos.
The investigation has now resulted in three cases against defendants around the country. Another Illinois man, Edward Majerczyk, was sentenced earlier this year to federal prison. In the third case, Ryan Collins was sentenced last year to 18 months in federal prison.
The case against Herrera is the product of an ongoing FBI investigation being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ryan White and Vicki Chou of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.