December 23, 2015
A Bahamas-based hacker is facing charges of illegally accessing the email accounts of celebrities in an attempt to steal movie and television scripts.
Alonzo Knowles, 23, was arrested in New York Monday in the wake of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), according to a news release.
Knowles allegedly tried to sell to an undercover agent 15 unlawfully obtained movie and television scripts and sexually explicit videos featuring celebrities and other entertainment industry professionals for $80,000. Knowles also allegedly tried to sell the agent social security numbers of three professional athletes and a movie actress.
Additionally, he is accused of showing the agent a list of 130 victims’ email addresses and phone numbers.
“This case has all of the elements of the kind of blockbuster script the defendant, Alonzo Knowles, is alleged to have stolen: hacks into celebrities’ private emails, identity theft, and attempts to sell victims’ information to the highest bidder,” said Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
No celebrity names or company names have been made public.
“This arrest brings down an alleged email hacking scheme that targeted many individuals including some in the entertainment industry,” said, Glenn Sorge, acting special agent in charge of HSI New York. “As cybercrime becomes more pervasive, this operation embodies HSI’s commitment to target those who use the cyber world for illegal financial gain.”
Knowles, who used the alias “Jeff Moxey,” has also claimed to have hacked 30 songs from “a very popular” celebrity’s upcoming album.
According to the New York Times, when Knowles allegedly tried to sell sexually explicit videos and images of celebrities he got through their email accounts, he told an undercover agent “This is just a sample of things I can get, I have more stuff along these lines and can get more if you’re interested.”
Knowles accessed the information through various means, according to court papers. He is alleged to have sent a “virus” to one victim, which allowed him to access their computer. He also allegedly sent emails to targets telling them their email had been hacked and asked them for their passwords.
Knowles faces “one count of felony criminal copyright infringement, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and one count of identity theft, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.”