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Breaking News – Connecticut man charged with hacking celebrity accounts

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A Connecticut man charged with hacking into more than 250 iCloud accounts of Hollywood stars, among them Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Kirsten Dunst, has agreed to plead guilty.Federal prosecutors say the charge against 26-year-old George Garofano stems from the investigation into the 2014 ‘celebgate’ scandal in which the nude photos of some 30 female celebrities were leaked online.The North Branford man agreed to plead guilty to unauthorized access to a protected computer, according to documents filed on Thursday in US District Court in Los Angeles.Although the case was lodged by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, the parties have agreed to transfer the case to the District of Connecticut for the entry of Garofano’s guilty plea and sentencing. He faces up to five years in prison.Prosecutors say from April 2013 through October 2014, Garofano engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain usernames and passwords for iCloud accounts.Garofano admitted that he sent emails to victims that appeared to be from security accounts of Apple and encouraged the victims to send him their usernames and passwords, or to enter them on a third-party website, where he would later retrieve them.The hacker then 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, Garofano traded the usernames and passwords, as well as the materials he stole from the victims, with others.The charge against Garofano stems from an investigation into the leaks of nude photos of dozens of female celebrities in September 2014, which came to be known as ‘celebgate.’Although many of Garofano’s victims were A-listers, including Gabrielle Union, Kelly Cuoco and soccer star Hope Solo, many non-celebrities who live in Connecticut were also targeted, according to officials.The case against Garofano is the fourth case stemming from FBI’s ‘celebgate’ investigation.Chicago resident Emilio Herrera has pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced next month after federal prosecutors charged him in a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to more than 550 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts.Another Illinois man, 29-year-old Edward Majerczyk, was sentenced last year to nine months in federal prison.In the third case, Ryan Collins, 36, a father-of-two from Pennsylvania, was sentenced in 2016 to 18 months in prison.Federal agents have said Academy Award winner Lawrence broke down and became distraught during a 2014 meeting about nude photos of her that appeared online.The star of Mother! called the leak a ‘sex crime’ in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine.Garofano’s lawyer tells the Hartford Courant his client ‘is a good person who was taken advantage of’ by more sophisticated hackers and is remorseful.
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