A Florida man says in a TV interview broadcast Thursday that he hacked into the email accounts of actress Scarlett Johansson and other celebrities and downloaded their private information, which led to nude photos of Johansson and other information appearing on the Internet.
Christopher Chaney told Jacksonville's WTEV (http://bit.ly/qreD1U) that he plans to plead guilty after he goes to Los Angeles to face federal charges. He is scheduled to be in a Jacksonville court Friday to be transferred to California. He is charged with 26 counts of identity theft, unauthorized access to a protected computer and wiretapping. If convicted, he faces up to 121 years in prison.
There were more than 50 victims in the case, including Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera and actress Renee Olstead, authorities said. Others were identified only by initials and investigators wouldn't disclose if they were famous, but said victims named in the indictment agreed to have their identities made public.
In the televised interview, Chaney, 35, said he began celebrity hacking out of curiosity and it quickly became addictive, "seeing the behind-the-scenes of what's going on with the people you see on the big screen." He said he was almost relieved when the FBI seized his computers months ago.
He insisted that he never intended to blackmail anyone and that he had no part in posting the photos.
"Someone contacted me wanting the pictures," said Chaney, who is free on $10,000 bond. "I don't even know who it was. No, I didn't give that person any pictures. I never wanted to sell or release any images."
He said he wanted to apologize to celebrities for his actions.
"I know what I did was probably the worst invasion of privacy someone could experience. I'm not trying to escape what I did. It was wrong. And I have to just face that and go forward," he told the station.
Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Chaney failed Thursday. A note on his front window told reporters that he would only talk to WTEV.
"I do not resent this or blame the media for trying to get the `hot' story. I deserve this. My family and neighbors do not," he wrote.
Neighbor Keishay Hayes said Chaney was reclusive and he only saw him on Wednesdays when he took the garbage to the street and when he walked his small dog. His friend Destiny Gordon said that when she saw the FBI and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office swarm the house a few months ago, she thought someone had died.
Chaney hacked Google, Apple and Yahoo email accounts beginning last November and through February, then hijacked the forwarding feature so that a copy of every email received was sent, "virtually instantaneously," to an email account he controlled, according to an indictment handed up Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles.
He allegedly used the hacker names "trainreqsuckswhat," "anonygrrl" and "jaxjaguars911," and also used the victims' identities to illegally access and control computers. Chaney is accused of damaging email servers that caused losses of at least $5,000 per instance.
Authorities wouldn't say whether Chaney was able to access email accounts via cell phones, but he was able to figure out secure passwords to various celebrity accounts through information that had been made public.
Chaney mined publicly available data and figured out passwords and security questions, officials said.