A 21-year-old hacker pleaded guilty Tuesday to infiltrating T-Mobile USA Inc.'s computer network and gaining access to customers' e-mail, voice messages and photos.
Nicholas Lee Jacobsen, formerly of Santa Ana, faces as many as five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop a second felony charge of unauthorized impairment of a protected computer.
Authorities did not say whether Jacobsen cooperated with investigators in exchange for the reduced charges; his plea agreement was filed under seal. Sentencing is set for May 16.
Jacobsen was arrested by the Secret Service in Orange County on Oct. 26 after an investigation into three groups of hackers who were suspected of Internet fraud schemes, trafficking in stolen credit cards and identity theft.
He was accused of breaking into a national database maintained by T-Mobile and causing thousands of dollars of damage by delving into 400 customers' personal accounts, including voice messages, e-mails and pictures stored on the network.
One of those customers was a Secret Service agent, whose e-mails Jacobsen was accused of reading.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Wesley L. Hsu declined to say what Jacobsen did with the information he obtained from the T-Mobile accounts. Among other accusations, a federal affidavit alleges that Jacobsen posted a notice on a bulletin board online that offered to match T-Mobile phone numbers to customers' names, Social Security numbers and other personal information.
Neither Jacobsen nor his attorney, federal public defender Greg Wesley, could be reached for comment.
Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile is the nation's fourth-largest mobile phone company, with 16 million customers. A company spokesman said Jacobsen did not obtain any of its customers' credit card data, which are not stored on the computers that Jacobsen admitted to penetrating.
At the time of his arrest, Jacobsen was living in Santa Ana and working at Irvine software maker Pfastship Worldwide Logistics. He has since moved to Oregon.