A man accused of hacking into hundreds of Facebook, Skype and email accounts and extorting women into showing him their naked bodies was arrested today on federal computer hacking charges.
The man was arrested on Tuesday by special agents with the FBI. According to the indictment, the man gained unauthorized access to – in other words, hacked into – the victims’ accounts, and changed the passwords, which locked victims out of their own online accounts.
Once he controlled the accounts, he searched emails or other files for naked or semi-naked pictures of the victims, as well as other information, such as passwords and the names of their friends. Using that information, he posed online as women, sent instant messages to their friends, and persuaded the friends to remove their clothing so that he could view and take pictures of them.
When the victims discovered that they were not speaking with their friends, the man often extorted them again, using the photos he had fraudulently obtained to again coerce the victims to remove their clothing on camera.
The indictment charges the man with 15 counts of computer intrusion and 15 counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to a search warrant executed in 2011 and unsealed on Tuesday, the man repeatedly contacted victims to demand that they expose their breasts to him on Skype, and used their email and Facebook accounts to make contact with other victims. He allegedly posted nude photos of some victims on their Facebook pages when they failed to comply with his demands.
Investigators estimate that the man victimized more than 350 women, but they have not identified all of the victims whose accounts were hacked. Authorities found approximately 3,000 pictures of nude or semi-nude women – some of which were taken from their online accounts, and some of which were taken by him on Skype – on his computer.
If convicted on all counts, the man faces a statutory maximum penalty of 105 years in federal prison.
This is not the first instance in which an individual has tried to “sextort” its victims by breaking into their online accounts and stealing compromising photos. Similar incidents have happened regularly over the course of the last half-decade.