Bahamian man gets 5 years in U.S. prison for hacking celebrities

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 06, 2016 2:18 PM

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Bahamian man was sentenced to five years in U.S. prison on Tuesday for hacking into celebrities' email accounts to steal unreleased film and television scripts, personal information and sexually explicit videos in order to sell them.

Alonzo Knowles, who maintained a list of 130 celebrities' emails and phone numbers, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan. He pleaded guilty in May to charges of criminal copyright infringement and identity theft.

"You have some obvious facility for computers," Engelmayer said. "But you chose to use your gifts for dark and nefarious ends."

Prosecutors said Knowles, of Freeport, Bahamas, accessed the accounts of actresses, musicians and others by sending their computers a virus or by emailing a fake notification that their account had been hacked and asking for their passwords.

Knowles stole at least 25 unreleased movie and television scripts, as well as music, financial documents and nude and intimate images and videos, prosecutors said.

The identities of most of the celebrities who were victimized have not been revealed. But one was Naturi Naughton, who stars in the Starz network series "Power" and who in a video submission to the court said she felt "violated."

Among the scripts Knowles stole was one for "All Eyez On Me," an upcoming biopic of Tupac Shakur, who died in a 1996 shooting, the film's production company has said. He also stole scripts for two Twenty-First Century Fox Inc properties.

The investigation began last December after a radio host received an unsolicited offer from someone for scripts of a TV drama's upcoming season, prompting him to contact the show's executive producer, prosecutors said.

The investigation led to Knowles, who in video conference calls told an undercover U.S. Department of Homeland Security agent he had "exclusive content" worth "hundreds of thousands of dollars," prosecutors said.

Knowles was arrested on Dec. 21, 2015, after flying to New York to try to sell the agent numerous scripts and several individuals' personal information for $80,000, prosecutors said.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)