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By David McAfee
Oct. 27 — A man who hacked into the Google and Apple e-mail accounts of more than 100 people, including Jennifer Lawrence and other Hollywood celebrities, was sentenced to 18 months in prison ( United States v. Collins, M.D. Pa., No. 16-cr-00121 , sentenced 10/26/16 ).
Judge William W. Caldwell of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania Oct. 26 ordered Ryan Collins, who admitted to hacking charges, to spend a year and a half in federal prison for a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
One of those accounts belonged to Hunger Games actress Jennifer Lawrence, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Casey G. Shore, criminal defense partner at Perry, Shore, Weisenberger & Zemlock in Harrisburg, Pa. and counsel for Collins, told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 27 that his client claims responsibility for the unlawful actions.
“Mr. Collins takes full responsibility for his actions, and would like to apologize to the victims for his immature behavior and lack of judgment,” Shore said. “Although Mr. Collins didn't forward, share or seek financial gain from any of the images that came into his possession, he completely understands the pain that was suffered by the victims,” he said.
Collins’ 18-month sentence is the most recent development stemming from the investigation into the September 2014 “Celebgate” celebrity nude photo hack. Prosecutors say they didn’t link Collins to the Celebgate leak and that he didn’t upload the information he obtained.
Prosecutors said Collins used a sophisticated phishing scheme to obtain Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google e-mail passwords and, ultimately, nude photographs and videos. There were more than 600 total victims, including many members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, according to prosecutors.
Eileen M. Decker, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, stressed the severity of hacking charges.
“Hackers violate federal law whenever they access private information stored online and in digital devices,” Decker said in an Oct. 26 statement. “Today, people store important private information online and in their digital devices, which is why my office is deeply committed to holding hackers accountable, even when they do not sell or distribute the stolen data.”
Collins was originally charged in Los Angeles before the case was transferred to his home state of Pennsylvania. He admitted to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information, according to court records.
The government is represented by U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph J. Terz of the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
To contact the reporter on this story: David McAfee in Los Angeles at dMcAfee@bna.com
Full text of the judgment order is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/USA_v_Collins_Docket_No_116cr00121_MD_Pa_May_09_2016_Court_Docket.
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