NEW YORK - A Bahamian man hacked into celebrities' email accounts to steal unreleased movie and TV scripts and private sex tapes and sought to peddle some of the scripts, boasting to an undercover agent that he had dossiers on at least 130 accounts of stars and big shots in entertainment, sports, and the media, federal prosecutors said.
Alonzo Knowles was being held without bail after a court appearance Tuesday on criminal copyright infringement and identity theft charges as prosecutors described a scheme that also involved proffering an actor's passport, Social Security numbers for three professional athletes, unreleased tracks from a singer-songwriter's upcoming album, and an explicit video grabbed from a radio host's email account.
Though none of the victims were identified, prosecutor Kristy Greenberg told a judge that several agents had spoken to were "quite traumatized" by the theft of their personal information.
"This case has all of the elements of the kind of blockbuster script the defendant, Alonzo Knowles, is alleged to have stolen," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "Unfortunately, these circumstances are all too real."
The case comes at a time when security is a sensitive subject in Hollywood.
Hackers calling themselves Guardians of Peace broke into Sony Pictures Entertainment computers last year and released thousands of emails, documents, Social Security numbers, and other personal information in an attempt to derail the release of the North Korean-focused comedy The Interview. The U.S. government blamed North Korea for the attack.
Subsequently, former Sony Pictures cochair Amy Pascal left her position after the hack revealed embarrassing emails that included racially insensitive remarks about President Obama's purported taste in movies, and Sony Pictures agreed to pay current and former employees up to $8 million to reimburse them for identity-theft losses and other costs.