A 26-year-old man has been charged in US federal court for playing a role in the so-called "Fappening" phishing scheme that terrorised celebrities with nude photo leaks.
George Garofano, of Northford, Connecticut, agreed to plead guilty on Thursday (11 January) to illegally accessing over 250 Apple iCloud accounts in violation of US hacking law.
According to the Department of Justice (DoJ), Garofano engaged in email-based phishing from April 2013 through to October 2014, obtaining hundreds of usernames and passwords.
The hacker admitted to sending emails to victims while posing as official Apple security, encouraging recipients to send him their private login credentials.
He then used the pilfered passwords to enter accounts and steal private pictures and videos, the DoJ said.
According to his plea agreement, Garofano also traded the usernames and passwords, as well as the materials he stole from the many famous victims, with other unnamed individuals.
When they leaked, the images of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and Kirsten Dunst sent shockwaves across Hollywood. They quickly circulated online, including on popular messageboards such as Reddit and 4Chan. Even today, similar nude leaks persist.
Based on filings lodged in US District Court in Los Angeles, Garofano agreed to plead guilty to one count of "unauthorised access to a protected computer to obtain information".
The DoJ confirmed the charge against Garofano stems from the investigation into "the leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities" in September 2014 known as "Celebgate".
While the case was filed by 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.
The case against Garofano is the fourth resulting from the ongoing FBI-led probe.
Chicago resident Emilio Herrera pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced next month in the US District Court in Chicago after federal prosecutors in Los Angeles charged him in a phishing scheme that gave him access to more than 550 Apple iCloud and Gmail accounts.