A Pennsylvania man has pleaded guilty to felony computer hacking, related to a phishing scheme in which he obtained illegal access to over 100 Apple and Google email accounts, including some belonging to celebrities.
According to a press release, Ryan Collins, 36, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was charged on Tuesday with a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Collins has signed a plea agreement and agreed to plead guilty to the charge. He is expected to serve 18 months in jail.
U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in the release that Collins accessed at least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts, most of which belonged to female celebrities, though investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the leaks of nude photos or evidence that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained.
The charges against Collins stem from an investigation of the September 2014 "Celebgate" hacks, in which photographs of stars like Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst, and Meagan Good were distributed online without their consent. While Collins has not been linked to the leaks, according to his plea agreement, he did illegally access email accounts belonging to female celebrities, and obtained personal information including nude photographs and videos, in some cases using a software program to download the entire contents of the victims' Apple iCloud backups.
"By illegally accessing intimate details of his victims' personal lives, Mr. Collins violated their privacy and left many to contend with lasting emotional distress, embarrassment and feelings of insecurity," said David Bowdich, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. "We continue to see both celebrities and victims from all walks of life suffer the consequences of this crime and strongly encourage users of Internet-connected devices to strengthen passwords and to be skeptical when replying to emails asking for personal information."
ET has reached out to Collins' family for comment.