'Sextortion': 6 years for O.C. hacker who victimized women, girls
A 32-year-old Santa Ana man who stole sexually explicit images and videos off girls' and women's computers and blackmailed his victims into sending him sex tapes was sentenced to six years in prison Thursday.
In sentencing Luis Mijangos, 32, a paraplegic wounded in a gang shooting, U.S. District Judge George H. King said the defendant engaged in “psychological warfare” and “cyberterrorism.”
Mijangos, who is an illegal immigrant from Mexico, pleaded guilty in March to computer hacking and wiretapping. He also admitted that in late 2009 he used malicious software to hack into a teenage girl’s computer, which gave him control over the victim’s webcam and allowed him to surreptitiously obtain naked photos of her. He also took control of the girl's microphone and recorded conversations.
Federal prosecutors in sentencing papers outlined how Mijangos "infected the computers of hundreds of victims by sending Trojan emails and instant messages embedded with malicious software that gave him complete access to and control over the victims’ computers.” He would portray the malicious software as files of popular songs or videos. He would then steal financial information, read emails and then watch and listen to them. "Often, he then used the information he obtained to play psychological games with his victims.”
Once Mijangos obtained images and videos from female victims, he used them to “sextort” victims by threatening to post intimate pictures on the Internet unless the victims provided Mijangos with more intimate images or videos. When one victim shared Mijangos' threats with a friend, Mijangos responded by posting nude pictures of the victim on her MySpace page, prosecutors said in their sentencing brief.
“Mr. Mijangos invaded the sanctity of many personal digital worlds and used intimate content to victimize and prey upon unsuspecting victims.” said U.S. Atty. André Birotte Jr.
When Mijangos was arrested in June 2010, FBI computer forensics experts determined that he had infected more than 100 computers that were used by approximately 230 individuals, at least 44 of whom were juveniles. In sentencing papers filed this year, prosecutors said that many other victims remain unidentified.
Mijangos told federal agents last year that he worked with “black hat” hackers to obtain financial information that he claimed earned him as much as $3,000 per day, according to an affidavit filed in the case. But prosecutors said in court papers that Mijangos also caused psychological harm to the young women and girls who were the victims of his “sextortion.”
At Thursday's sentencing hearing, two victims of the extortion described how they were subjected to “nightmare” situations. One young woman said that before Mijangos victimized her, she had been a victim of domestic violence, “and I want to tell you, there’s no difference.”
The federal investigation into Mijangos begn when a victim reported him to the Glendale police.
Steven M. Martinez, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, stated: “The sentence imposed on Mr. Mijangos is appropriate based on the chilling impact his behavior had on scores of young women."
Martinez said in a statement that the FBI has seen a rise in similar cases based on the exploitation of emerging technologies by criminals. "...it’s my hope that this sentence serves as a warning for victims of Internet predators to advise law enforcement or a trusted source when threatened, and always refrain from sending compromising photographs via cyberspace.”
-- Richard Winton
Photo: Luis Mijangos is shown as he enters federal court to face computer hacking charges Thursday in Los Angeles. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press