A man agreed to plead guilty to hacking into 550 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts, including those of celebrities in Los Angeles, officials said Monday.
Emilio Herrera, of Chicago, fooled hundreds of men and women, including 40 celebrities, into sending him username and password information by using phishing emails that looked as if they came from Apple, Yahoo and Hotmail, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
He then used the information to log into and sift through their email accounts. Through the scheme, prosecutors said, he got his hands on iCloud backups with sensitive photographs, videos and other private information. He accessed his neighbor’s Gmail account 495 times, they said.
Authorities did not identify the celebrities whose accounts Herrera compromised.
Herrera agreed to plead guilty to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information. He ran his phishing scam between April 2013 and August 2014, according to his plea deal.
He faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, but prosecutors agreed in the deal to recommend a sentence of 18 months.
Authorities began investigating Herrera after nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and dozens of other celebrities were hacked from their Apple devices. Investigators have not found any evidence linking Herrera to the leaks or showing that he shared the photos or videos he obtained, officials said.
Herrera is the third person to be prosecuted as part of the investigation. Edward Majerczyk of Chicago was sentenced to nine months in federal prison for a phishing scheme that gave him access to more than 300 iCloud and Gmail accounts. Ryan Collins of Lancaster, Pa. was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in a similar scheme.