Congratulations, Jennifer Lawrence, et al: one of the Celebgate nude-photo thieves has just pled guilty to invading your private life.
According to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, Ryan Collins, a 36-year-old married father of two from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, pled guilty on Tuesday to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
In a plea agreement he signed in March, Collins also agreed to plead guilty to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information.
In a statement sent out in March, prosecutors said that Collins snagged celebrities with a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to over 100 Apple and Gmail email accounts.
The government hasn’t identified Collins’ targets, but we know that the massive 2014 leak included images of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Gabrielle Union, Kim Kardashian, and Kirsten Dunst, among dozens of other female celebrities.
From November 2012 until the beginning of September 2014, Collins sent phishing emails that looked like they were from Apple or Google.
The emails asked victims to provide usernames and passwords.
When his victims complied, Collins used their login credentials to access their email accounts, from which he stole nude photos and videos. He also used an unspecified application to download the entire contents of their Apple iCloud backups.
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This isn’t over yet.
So far, investigators haven’t uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks. Specifically, they haven’t found evidence of Collins having shared or uploaded the stolen images.
He illegally accessed at least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts.
Collins isn’t the first to attract investigators’ attention in their ongoing work to uncover the culprits behind Celebgate.
Last June, the FBI raided the Chicago home of Emilio Herrera, alleging that he’d breached thousands of private iCloud accounts.
In January, Gawker reported that the feds had raided yet another Chicago home in October 2014: that of Ed Majerczyk.
Court documents fingered Majerczyk, another Chicago man with a similar laundry list of cloud-based invasions, as its top suspect in the Celebgate investigation.
We haven’t yet heard of any charges being filed against either of the Chicago men.
The maximum sentence for Collins’ crimes is five years in federal prison, but maximum sentences are rarely given out. Prosecutors and Collins’ defense team agreed to recommend that he face a prison term of 18 months.
Sentencing is still to come.