A US student pleaded guilty Tuesday to hacking online accounts of Miss Teen USA and other women and threatening to publish nude photos of them, the FBI said.
Jared James Abrahams surrendered in September to FBI agents probing so-called “sextortion” cases, in which he made demands in return for agreeing not to release the pictures, and took a plea deal last month.
In court Tuesday, Abrahams pleaded guilty to four counts — three of extortion, and one of computer hacking — according to court documents released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Los Angeles.
One of the victims was current Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf, who for four years attended the same school as Abrahams in Temecula, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles. Both now 19, they left the school in 2012.
Abrahams could be jailed for up to 33 months, and fined up to $1 million for unauthorized access to computers and extortion, officials say. He is due to be sentenced on March 17, said Los Angeles FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
A plea agreement filed last month detailed how, starting last year and continuing until June, the computer science student hacked into computers, email and social media accounts.
The pictures, sometimes nude in nature, were taken from webcams, said the plea deal, adding that Abrahams “extorted at least 12 young women in their late teens or early 20s in this manner.”
The investigation involved multiple victims in California, as well as Canada, Moldova and Russia. The most high profile was Wolf, who won the Miss Teen USA pageant in August.
Wolf called investigators in March after receiving threatening emails containing nude photos of herself.
The sender said he would distribute the pictures “all over the Internet” unless she either sent him a personal video of herself, joined him on Skype for a five-minute video chat during which she would have to do whatever he said, or sent him “good quality pics” of herself.
“Either you do one of the things listed or I upload these pics… on all your accounts for everybody to see, and your dream of being a model will be transformed into a pornstar,” he wrote, according to an affidavit.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]