March 23, 2012 / 1:05 AM / 6 years ago

Florida man to plead guilty in celebrity hacking case: prosecutors

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A man accused of hacking into the email accounts of film star Scarlett Johansson and other celebrities to access nude photos and private information has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Christopher Chaney (L) arrives for a post-indictment arraignment at Edward R. Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles November 1, 2011. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Christopher Chaney of Jacksonville, Florida, will plead guilty on Monday to nine criminal counts, including unauthorized access to a computer and wiretapping, according to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison, although federal sentencing guidelines often call for less time behind bars.

Chaney was arrested in October after an 11-month investigation dubbed “Operation Hackerazzi” by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

He was charged with 26 counts of cyber-related crimes for hacking into e-mails Johansson, “Black Swan” star Mila Kunis and pop star Christina Aguilera. Other victims were identified only by their initials: B.P., J.A., L.B. and L.S.

The photos of Johansson, 27, showed her topless and in a towel with an exposed backside.

Johansson revealed in a Vanity Fair magazine interview they were taken for her now ex-husband, actor Ryan Reynolds, when they were still married.

Assistant Director in Charge of FBI's Los Angeles Field Office Steven Martinez (R) answers questions about the arrest of Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville, Florida, in "Operation Hackerazzi", for targeting celebrities with computer intrusion, wiretapping and identity theft, as U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Andre Birotte Jr. (L) stands with him at the Federal Building in Los Angeles October 12, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Leaked photos of Kunis showed her in a tub filled with bubbles, showing only her face.

In the plea agreement, prosecutors say that between November of 2010 and October of 2011 Chaney hacked into the accounts of more than 50 members of the entertainment industry.

He obtained private communications, photos, business contracts, scripts and other information from his victims, prosecutors say.

According to the plea agreement he forwarded some of the private photos to another hacker and two gossip websites.

Chaney’s defense attorneys could not be reached for comment on Thursday evening.

The day after he was arrested, Chaney told a Jacksonville, Florida TV station that he became addicted to prying into the affairs of celebrities and apologized.

“I was almost relieved months ago when they (the FBI) came and took my computer ... because I didn’t know how to stop,” Chaney told the TV station.

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Tim Gaynor

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