An Illinois man has pleaded guilty to his part in the so-called "Celebgate" hack that ultimately leaked nude photos of celebrities including actress Jennifer Lawrence and model Kate Upton.
Edward Majerczyk, of Chicago, admitted in court Tuesday that he targeted celebrities in an online scheme, downloading "sensitive images" and obtaining personal information on the victims.
He pleaded guilty to one felony count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information.
Majerczyk was accused in a phishing scheme that gave him illegal access to hundreds of Gmail and iCloud accounts, including at least 30 accounts that belong to celebrities, the Department of Justice had said.
According to authorities, from Nov. 23, 2013, through August 2014, Majerczyk sent emails to victims that appeared to be from security accounts of internet service providers, directing them to a website that would collect their usernames and passwords. Through the scheme, Majerczyk was able to access the victims' personal information, including sensitive and private photographs and videos, officials said.
The charge against Majerczyk stemmed from an investigation into the leaks of photographs of numerous female celebrities in September 2014 that became known as "Celebgate."
In the scandal, some of the private photos were leaked onto websites like 4chan.org and Reddit, with as many as 100 celebrities targeted.
Investigators, however, have not found evidence linking Majerczyk to the leaks.
His lawyer, Thomas Needham, also emphasized that point in court Tuesday, saying Majerczyk made no effort to sell or distribute the images he obtained.
"So essentially it was for his own personal satisfaction and enjoyment?" Judge Charles Kocoras said.
"Yes, your honor," Needham replied.
Kocoras accepted Majerczyk's guilty plea as part of a plea deal.
He faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison and is set to be sentenced on Jan. 10.
“Hacking of online accounts to steal personal information is not merely an intrusion of an individual’s privacy but is a serious violation of federal law,” United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement. “Defendant’s conduct was a profound intrusion into the privacy of his victims and created vulnerabilities at multiple online service providers.”