A onetime NASA contractor pleaded guilty Thursday in Los Angeles to federal charges of stalking women online with threats to publish nude photos unless they provided him with additional explicit pictures.
Richard Gregory Bauer, 28, a former contractor at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, entered his plea to three felonies -- stalking, unauthorized access to a protected computer, and aggravated identity theft. The charges together carry a possible sentence of between two and 12 years behind bars and a $750,000 fine.
Restitution will be determined prior to sentencing on Dec. 17, Assistant U.S. Attorney Khaldoun Shobaki said.
Bauer, who until recently lived in the High Desert communities of Palmdale and Lancaster, admitted using phony identities to harass female friends, family members, co-workers, acquaintances from high school and college, and friends of friends.
"Did you do what the prosecutor said you did?" U.S. District Judge John F. Walter asked during the hearing in downtown Los Angeles.
"Yes, your honor," Bauer responded.
In emails to six women, Bauer sent previously obtained nude photos of the women, claimed to have additional photos, and threatened to leak the images online unless they sent him new pictures of themselves in various stages of undress.
"I want four pictures of you daily," Bauer wrote to at least one woman, demanding that she be "naked," although "your face doesn't have to be visible," Shobaki told the court.
Bauer's threats caused "substantial emotional distress" to the victims, the prosecutor said.
Bauer used Facebook to send questions to his victims for a purported survey, requesting answers to password reset questions such as pets' names and where the women's parents met. He would then access their accounts, sometimes discovering nude or semi-nude photographs.
In other instances, Bauer convinced victims to install malware by claiming that he needed their help in testing software he claimed to have written, Shobaki said.
The malware gave Bauer unauthorized access to the computers, and allowed him, among other things, to capture from the victims' computers passwords for web sites and email accounts. In all, more than a dozen accounts were hacked and Bauer collected "numerous" nude photos, the prosecutor said.