The United States Justice Department heard Tuesday a guilty plea of one of the hackers involved in "The Fappening" â€” the widespread nude photo leak of tens of hundreds of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Scarlett Johansson in 2014. Ryan Collins, a 36-year-old man from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had been charged with illegal access to a protected computer to obtain personal information.
The prosecutors said they recommended 18 months' imprisonment for Collins, but the recommendation would not bind the judge, who could sentence Collins up to 5 years in prison along with a $250,000 fine and a period of supervised release, Fox reported. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Collins was responsible for hijacking over 100 iCloud and Gmail accounts using phishing emails that looked like official security updates from Apple and Google.
The authorities haven't established a link between Collins and the two Chicago men who had their homes raided by the FBI in 2014. The Justice Department said Collins was not involved in the actual leaking of nude celebrity images to 4chan and Reddit.
"The charge against Collins stems from the investigation into the leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities in September 2014 known as 'Celebgate.' However, investigators have not uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the actual leaks or that Collins shared or uploaded the information he obtained," Gawker quoted the court document as saying.
Most of Collins' victims were celebrities from the Los Angeles film fraternity. As a part of the hack, Collins accessed at least 50 iCloud accounts and 73 Gmail accounts of female celebrities, the Washington Post reports. The court documents did not name the victims, but photos and videos of celebs like Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Scarlett Johansson, Lea Michele, Venessa Hudgens and Hayden Panettiere were leaked online.
Following the incident, "Hunger Games" actress Lawrence told Vanity Fair in an interview in 2014 the hack was not a scandal, but a "sexual violation."
"It's disgusting," Lawrence said at the time. "The law needs to be changed, and we need to change. That's why these Web sites are responsible. Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that crosses somebody's mind is to make a profit from it. It's so beyond me. I just can't imagine being that detached from humanity. I can't imagine being that thoughtless and careless and so empty inside."