March 26, 2012, 4:47 PM — The 35-year-old Jacksonville, Fla. man arrested for posting nude photos of Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, Christina Aguilera and other celebrities has agreed to plead guilty to hacking charges in a Los Angeles court hearing later today.
Christopher Chaney has reportedly told the FBI he had hacked into the email addresses and cell phones of more than 50 female celebrities, setting them to auto-forward messages to a secret account of his so he would be able to keep track of password changes and other security measures.
Chaney, who described his habit as a compulsion similar to addiction, originally posed as a hacking group that called itself Hollywood Leaks, which took credit for posting nude photos of Johannson, photos from Vanessa Hudgens, Jessica Alba and Christina Aguilera, all stolen from their cell phone, Gmail or other online mail accounts.
He said he cracked their passwords using names, dates and other terms he found in online stories about the celebrity he was currently stalking.
Rather than hacking the phone itself or its online voice-mail, as reporters at News of the World did during the U.K.'s decade-long phone-hacking scandal, Chaney broke into the email accounts of celebrities and accessed email and pictures sent by celebrities using their phones.
The guilty plea is allegedly the result of a plea deal in which Chaney agreed to plead guilty to nine hacking-related felonies, including identity theft, wiretapping and unauthorized access to a computer, according to celebrity gossip site TMZ.
The charges could land him in jail for as long as 60 years, though he is unlikely to be sentenced to even a sixth of that.
He could also be fined up to $2.25 million and forced to pay restitution.
When Chaney was arrested after an investigation known as "Operation Hackerazzi," he faced charges with combined penalties of as long as 121 years.