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January 11, 2018: LOS ANGELES – A Connecticut man was charged today in federal court with a felony computer hacking offense related to a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to over 250 Apple iCloud accounts, many of which belonged to members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.
George Garofano, 26, of Northford, Connecticut, was named today in a criminal information that accuses him of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
In a plea agreement that was also lodged today in United States District Court in Los Angeles, Garofano agreed to plead guilty to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information.
While the case was filed 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. Once he enters the guilty plea, Garofano will face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
According to the plea agreement, 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 e-mails 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.
Garofano 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 other individuals.
The charge against Garofano stems from an investigation into the leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities in September 2014 known as "Celebgate." Although many of Garofano's victims were members of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, many non-celebrities who live in Connecticut were also victimized. By illegally accessing the iCloud accounts, Garofano gained access to at least 250 accounts.
The case against Garofano is the fourth case stemming from the Celebgate investigation. Chicago resident Emilio Herrera has pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced next month in United States District Court in Chicago after federal prosecutors in Los Angeles charged Herrera in a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to more than 550 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts. Another Illinois man was sentenced last year to federal prison. In the third case, a Pennsylvania man was sentenced in 2016 to 18 months in prison.
The Celebgate investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The case against Garofano was filed by Assistant United States Attorney Ryan White of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.
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