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May 24, 2016

Lancaster man pleads guilty to hacking celebrity accounts for nude photos

Ryan Collins, 36, allegedly broke into the Google and Apple accounts of more than 100 victims

A Lancaster man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a felony computer hacking charge in a phishing scheme that gave him access to the Apple and Google accounts of more than 100 people, included celebrities in Los Angeles, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced.

According to prosecutors, 36-year-old Ryan Collins admitted that he sent emails to victims requesting their personal information and later used it to obtain personal information including nude photographs and videos. In some cases, Collins allegedly used a software program that enabled him to download a victim's entire Apple iCloud backup.

The scheme, which Collins said took place from November 2012 until the beginning of September 2014, drew the attention of investigators amid the "Celebgate" leaks in the fall of 2014, when numerous female celebrities had their private photographs exposed.

Investigators said they have not uncovered any evidence linking Collins to the "Celebgate" leaks. Among at least 50 iCloud accounts and 72 Gmail accounts Collins accessed, prosecutors say the majority belonged to female celebrities. 

In Harrisburg, Collins pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, namely one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information.

He faces up to five years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine. A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled.