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Computer repairman collected hundreds of thousands of photos of unsuspecting women, police say

Fullerton police estimate that a computer repairman took hundreds of thousands of images of partially clothed or naked women inside their homes as part of an elaborate scheme that used spyware.

Authorities said they are looking for other potential victims of the suspect in the case, who allegedly planted software on unsuspecting victims' computer that allowed him to spy on them.

Trevor Harwell, 20, a technician for Rezitech Inc., provided home computer services to users with Macintosh computers, said Fullerton Police Sgt. Andrew Goodrich.

Harwell went to elaborate lengths to ensure that he got lurid images, even convincing users through system messages that they needed to take their computers into steamy environments, such as near their showers, Goodrich said.

"While he had physical access to the computers, he would install a spyware-type application that allowed him remote access to the user's computer and webcam," Goodrich said.

He also would work on friends' computers.

"Once he had access, he would take photographs of the users, usually women," Goodrich said. "Often, the female victims were undressed or changing clothes."

He said Harwell then stored the photos on a remote server and eventually downloaded them to his own computer.

The repair ploy first came to light last summer when a Fullerton resident contacted police about suspicious messages appearing on his daughter's computer, Goodrich said.

One message mimicked the appearance of a system message and read: "You should fix your internal sensor soon. If unsure what to do, try putting your laptop near hot steam for several minutes to clean the sensor."

The message led many victims to take their laptops into the bathroom while taking a shower, Goodrich said.

Harwell serviced computers in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Fullerton police say they have documented numerous victims, all of them women.

Still images, videos and cellphone videos of women taken surreptitiously were seized from Harwell's computer, police said.

Harwell was a student at Biola University at the time but no longer attends the school. Goodrich said many of the victims attended the university.

Harwell used a program called Camcapture that was installed on the victims' hard drives, Goodrich said, adding that potential victims should search the "/Library/WebServer Documents" directory for the Camcapture program.

Detectives also believe Harwell may have exploited Macintosh computers that were connected to Biola's internal network, officials said.

Fullerton police are working with Biola's public safety department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on the investigation. Those who suspect they may have been a victim are asked to contact Fullerton Det. Kathryn Hamel at (714) 738-5327.

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-- Richard Winton


 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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