A Temecula man is expected to plead guilty in federal court Tuesday to “sextorting” nude photos and videos from the recently crowned Miss Teen USA and other women by hacking into their computers.
In a court filing submitted Monday in an Orange County federal court, Jared James Abrahams, 19, agreed that he will plead guilty to illegally accessing at least a dozen women’s computers to extort them.
Among those said to be his victims was Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf, who went public with the effort to extort her. In the filing, Abrahams admits to hijacking women’s webcams to capture naked images of them and then blackmailing them for more.
His victims are said to have ranged in age from their late teens to early 20s and were in the United States, Canada and Ireland, among other locations.
The criminal complaint identifies at least seven victims by initials only -- some of whom, including Wolf, he knew personally -- and revealed that, once confronted, Abrahams admitted to his crimes in an interview with an FBI special agent.
The college freshman computer scientist acknowledged infecting the computers with malware, watching his victims change their clothes and using photographs against his victims, according to the affidavit.
Abrahams said that an 18-year-old identified in the record as "CW" was the first person whose computer he hacked that he “knew personally.” He also admitted “to getting another victim identified as M.M. #1, to go on Skype and take her clothes off at his direction,” according to a Sept. 19 affidavit by FBI Special Agent Julie Patton.
The FBI has been investigating Abrahams since March, when authorities learned he allegedly compromised victims’ computers to obtain nude photographs, and in some cases videos, of the victims by remotely operating their Web-enabled cameras.
The investigation was sparked after Wolf alerted authorities to a change in her Facebook password and a sextortion demand, say law enforcement sources.
The criminal complaint alleges that Abrahams changed Wolf's Twitter account photo to a half-naked image of her and then sent her two images of her naked that were taken inside her home by her webcams months before.
In each case, Abrahams is alleged to have contacted the victims using two AOL accounts he had taken over and send the victims nude photos to show what he had obtained. Abrahams is said to have threatened to disclose the images and videos unless the women did one of three things: send nude photos, send a nude video, or log onto Skype and do what he said for five minutes.
Abrahams allegedly threatened to transform "CW"'s "dream of being a model ... into a porn star” if the victim did not comply with his demands.
When FBI agents raided his Temecula home in June and seized computers and hardware, cellphones and hacking software, they found evidence to show he gained unauthorized access to computers of victims in Southern California, Maryland, Ireland, Canada, Russia and Moldova.
According to court records, at least one of the victims is a minor. The victim identified as "MM#1" -- a girl from Ireland who reluctantly complied with his orders for a Skype session in which she submitted to his demands -- wrote, “Please remember I’m 17. Have a heart.”
Abrahams, according to the criminal complaint, responded: "I'll tell you this right now! I do NOT have a heart. However, I do stick to my deals. Also age doesn’t mean a thing to me!!!”
The girl then stripped during the Skype session. A Canadian woman also disrobed.
In his plea agreement, Abrahams acknowledged taking over 100 to 150 computers.
Wolf, who was Miss California Teen USA before winning the Miss Teen USA pageant in August, revealed that she received an anonymous email from someone claiming to have nude photos of her taken via the webcam on her computer.
Wolf also said the author tried to extort her to ensure that the photos were not made public.
It is the latest in a string of "sextortion" cases involving individuals who have used email accounts, social media or a computer's own hardware to glean compromising information or images of its user.