Area Man at Center of Hacked Nude Celebrity Photo Scandal
Remember when nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities were leaked on the Internet back in 2014? Those photos were part of a massive celebrity photo hack known as The Fappening, and now the feds have identified a man from this area as one of the hackers behind it.
36-year-old Ryan Collins of Lancaster has agreed to plead guilty to one felony hacking charge in the case, which was brought by federal prosecutors in California. The case is being transferred to federal court in Harrisburg.
The maximum sentence for his offense is five years in prison, although prosecutors have indicated that they will recommend just a year and a half. Collins also faces fines of up to $250,000 and possibly three years of supervised probation.
According to court documents, Collins used a phishing scheme to gain access to the private photos and videos of more than 100 victims, including 18 celebrities, between 2012 and 2014.
The scheme worked like this: Collins would send an email to his mark that appeared to be a legitimate security message from companies and services like Apple, Outlook and Gmail, the kind of phony message you’ve probably received dozens of times yourself. If the victim didn’t realize the scam, they’d enter their ID and password and, just like that, Collins was able to gain access to their most personal images and information.
While the plea agreement connects Collins directly to The Fappening hack, it does not implicate him in the leaking of those photos to the Internet, where they went viral on outlets like Reddit and 4Chan. In a 2015 interview with Vogue, Lawrence referred to the publication of her nude photos as a “sex crime.”
Authorities have said that they have not found any evidence that Collins was involved in those leaks, although prosecutors have indicated that they reserve the right to prosecute him on tax charges, if he is later found to have profited from the hacks. Collins’ arrest for his involvement in The Fappening is reportedly tied to an ongoing investigation in Chicago.
“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, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office in a statement. “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.”
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