A hacker has agreed to plead guilty to orchestrated a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to more than 250 email accounts, including dozens belonging to members of the entertainment industry, according to court papers filed Thursday in Los Angeles.
Hacker is from Northford, CT
George Garofano, 26, of Northford, Connecticut, was named in a criminal information that accuses him of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In a plea agreement that was also lodged Thursday in Los Angeles, Garofano agreed to plead guilty to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information.
The names of Garofano’s victims were not made public.
While the case was filed by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, the parties have agreed to transfer the case to Connecticut for the entry of Garofano’s guilty plea and sentencing. Once he enters the guilty plea, Garofano will face up to five years in federal prison, prosecutors said.
Hacker Started Phishing Scheme
From April 2013 through October 2014, Garofano engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain usernames and passwords for iCloud accounts, according to his plea agreement. Garofano admitted that he sent emails to victims that appeared to be from security accounts of Apple and encouraged the recipients to send him their usernames and passwords, or to enter them on a third-party website, where he would later retrieve them.
Garofano used the usernames and passwords to illegally access his victims’ iCloud accounts, which allowed him to steal personal information, including sensitive and private photographs and videos, according to his plea agreement. In some instances, he traded the usernames and passwords, as well as the materials he stole from the victims, with other individuals, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The case against Garofano stems from an investigation into the leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities in September 2014, dubbed “Celebgate.” Although many of Garofano’s unnamed victims were members of the entertainment industry, many non-celebrities who live in Connecticut were also victimized, authorities said. By illegally accessing the iCloud accounts, Garofano gained access to at least 250 accounts, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Chicago Hacker Also Pled Guilty
The case against Garofano is the fourth stemming from the probe. Chicago resident Emilio Herrera pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced next month in Chicago, after federal prosecutors in Los Angeles charged Herrera in a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to more than 550 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts. Another Illinois man was sentenced last year to federal prison. In the third case, a Pennsylvania man was sentenced in 2016 to 18 months in prison.