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Scarlett Johansson hacker gets 10-year prison term

Florida man hacked Scarlett Johansson and others' email accounts; their nude photos and other private material ended up on the Internet.

December 18, 2012|By Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times
  • Christopher Chaney, shown in 2011, had faced a possible maximum sentence of 60 years in federal prison but made a plea agreement.
Christopher Chaney, shown in 2011, had faced a possible maximum sentence… (Reed Saxon, Associated…)

A Florida man who hacked into email accounts and procured naked images of Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera and Mila Kunis was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison.

U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero sentenced Christopher Chaney, 35, of Jacksonville after hearing how he intruded into the lives of dozens of celebrities and others and in some cases passed naked images along on the Internet.

Chaney, who has maintained he made no money from his actions, had already pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court to nine counts of computer hacking and wiretapping for the unauthorized access of email accounts of 50 people in the entertainment industry.

Once Chaney got photos of the celebrities and other information, he forwarded the material to another hacker and two celebrity websites that made it public, according to a plea agreement.

In a videotaped statement, Johansson told the court, "I have been truly humiliated and embarrassed. I find Christopher Chaney's actions to be perverted and reprehensible."

Aguilera taped a similar message to the court: "That feeling of security can never be given back and there is no compensation that can restore the feeling one has from such a large invasion of privacy."

Renee Olstead, a 23-year-old actress on ABC Family Channel's "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," appeared in court and described how much the stolen naked images had hurt her.

"I just really hope this doesn't happen to someone else," Olstead said, sobbing. "You can lose everything because of the actions of a stranger."

Olstead said she comes from a conservative family and worked for a family network. She said she considered suicide after the photos were released.

Chaney has admitted that from at least November 2010 to October 2011, he hacked into the email accounts of Johansson, Kunis and others by taking their email addresses, clicking on the "Forgot your password?" feature and then resetting the passwords by correctly answering their security questions using publicly available information he found by searching the Internet.

Prosecutors said that once Chaney gained exclusive control of the victims' email accounts, he was able to access all of their email boxes. While in the accounts, he also went through their contact lists to find email addresses of potential new hacking targets, according to prosecutor Lisa Feldman.

Even after they regained control of their email accounts, Chaney's alias address remained in their settings, the plea agreement said. He continued to receive thousands of copies of their incoming emails, including attachments, for weeks or months without his victims' knowledge.

The confidential documents included business contracts, scripts, letters, driver's license information and Social Security information, the indictment said.

His activities were not restricted to celebrities. During his hacking, he also targeted several other young women.

Chaney could have faced a maximum sentence of 60 years in federal prison.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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