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Accused Scarlett Johannson hacker expected to plead guilty

March 26, 2012 |  8:22 am

Operation hackerazzi
A Florida man accused of hacking into emails of celebrities Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis and Christina Aguilera is expected to plead guilty Monday in a downtown L.A. courtroom.

According to a plea agreement released Thursday, Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, will plead guilty to nine counts, KTLA-TV reported. He initially faced 26 counts.

The federal charges against Chaney include unauthorized access and damage to a protected computer and wiretapping. He could get up to 60 years in prison and could be fined $2.25 million and ordered to pay restitution.

Chaney allegedly hacked Google, Apple and Yahoo email accounts beginning last November, then hijacked the forwarding feature so that a copy of every email received was sent to an email account he controlled, according to an indictment by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles.

This form of wiretapping allowed Chaney to continually receive victims' emails even after a password had been reset. Chaney has said he is ready to face the consequences.

"I deeply apologize," Chaney told local station WTEV. "It started as curiosity and it turned to just being addictive," he said. "Seeing the behind-the-scenes of what's going on with the people you see on the big screen."

Chaney said his so-called addiction got out of control and he didn't know how to stop. "I was almost relieved when they came in and took the computers inside," he said.

Chaney told the station he never sold any photos and is unsure how they were obtained, suggesting others may have been involved.

The FBI's L.A. office said Chaney's arrest was part of "Operation 'Hackerazzi,'" which involved computer intrusions targeting individuals associated with the entertainment industry. The federal probe began in 2010 after allegations of people hacking into phones and computers belonging to several Hollywood celebrities.

In March, there were reports that hackers managed to get private information belonging to 50 female celebrities, including Johansson. The photos show her in a towel with an exposed backside; another shows her topless. They were posted on several celebrity gossip websites.

Other victims included Vanessa Hudgens, Jessica Alba, Ali Larter and Demi Lovato.


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Photo: U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr., at podium, in a news conference in October announcing the arrest and federal charges filed in "Operation Hackerazzi."Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times.