April 12, 2018

North Branford man pleads guilty in celebrity hacking case

A North Branford man pleaded guilty Wednesday to hacking more than 200 Apple accounts in the 2014 "Celebgate" cybercrime, which included leaks of nude celebrity photos, federal prosecutors said.

George Garofano, 26, of Northford, a section of North Branford, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information. The offense carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.

Garofano is free on $50,000 bond.

According to investigators, Garofano engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain usernames and passwords of approximately 240 Apple iCloud accounts from April 2013 through Oct. 2014.

Garofano admitted that he sent emails to victims that appeared to be from security accounts of Apple and encouraged the victims to send him their usernames and passwords. He also told the victims to enter their information on a third-party website, where he later received them, they said.

Garofano then illegally accessed the accounts, which enabled him to steal personal information, private photographs and videos. He also traded the usernames and passwords with other individuals, investigators said.

Many of the victims were celebrities located in California, in addition to non-celebrities living in Connecticut.

The FBI in Los Angeles began investigating the leaked nude photographs of numerous female celebrities in Sept. 2014. Garofano was charged in January by the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, federal prosecutors said.

The case was transferred to Connecticut's district court for further prosecution.

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