Hacker Guccifer pleads guilty to disclosing Bush emails

AP News
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Posted: May 25, 2016 1:31 PM

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — The Romanian hacker known as Guccifer will serve at least two years in prison after pleading guilty to breaking into computer accounts of the Bush family in 2013 and publicly releasing private family photos.

Marcel Lazar, 44, of Arad, Romania, pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court to unauthorized computer access and aggravated identity theft. Seven other counts, including cyberstalking and wire fraud, were dropped as part of a plea bargain.

The convictions carry a mandatory minimum of two years and a possible maximum of seven years when he is sentenced Sept. 1.

Lazar is best known for hacking the email account of a Bush family member and revealing private family photos and paintings connected to former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Prosecutor Ryan Dickey said at Wednesday's hearing that about 100 Americans were victimized by Guccifer's hacking.

"Lazar sought fame by hacking the private online accounts of Americans and releasing their personal information to the public; instead he has been convicted in United States federal court," said Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell in a written statement.

The indictment does not identify the victims by name but describes "Victim 1" as "a family member of two former U.S. presidents." The Bush family member's hacked AOL account resulted in leaked emails, medical information, photographs, home addresses, and telephone numbers, according to the indictment.

The website The Smoking Gun published some of the hacked photos, including pictures of paintings by George W. Bush, and a photo of George H.W. Bush in the hospital. The Smoking Gun said the hacked account belonged to Dorothy Bush Koch, the daughter of the elder Bush and sister of the younger.

The indictment also identifies "Victim 3," believed to be Secretary of State Colin Powell, and says his Facebook account was hacked, and posts went out under Powell's name stating "You will burn in hell, Bush!" and "Kill the illuminati!"

Guccifer also hacked an email account of Sidney Blumenthal, a confidant of Hillary Clinton, in March 2013. That subsequent leak of Blumenthal's emails was the first time that outsiders became aware of Clinton's private "clintonemail.com" address, which she used to communicate with Blumenthal. It has now become part of the investigation of whether Clinton mishandled sensitive emails.

Lazar also made news earlier this month with unsubstantiated claims he hacked into Hillary Clinton's private email server. The plea deal does not address that allegation.

Court documents indicate Guccifer — whose name was a combination of Gucci and Lucifer — would guess passwords and security questions of account holders to gain access to email and social media accounts of his targets held with companies like AOL, Facebook and Yahoo. Efforts to hack Clinton's email server would have required a different method.

The plea deal allows for the possibility that Lazar could serve some of his sentence in Romania. He was convicted in 2014 on similar charges in his home country and was serving a four-year sentence when Romania agreed to extradite him to the U.S. earlier this year.