Threat Management, Vulnerability Management

Cybercrime Blotter: Hacker who tried to sell celebrity secrets sentenced to 5 years


What happened?  Alonzo Knowles, 24, a Bahamian man who goes by the alias “Jeff Moxey,” was sentenced on Tuesday for hacking into the email accounts of entertainment, media and sports professionals and stealing their digital property for profit. The U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York announced the sentencing in a press release.

Jurisdiction: U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer of the Southern District of New York imposed the sentence. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristy Greenberg prosecuted the case under the auspices of the U.S.  Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and its Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.

Sentence: Knowles received a sentence of five years and was also handed a money judgment in the amount of $1982.71, along with a $200 special assessment. He forfeits any property seized during the investigation by the Department of Homeland Security, including stolen assets, an iPad and a phone. Also, a laptop belonging to Knowles containing stolen materials was destroyed, per judicial order.

Earlier this year, Knowles apparently damaged his chances of receiving a more lenient sentence, after sending emails from jail to several women, boasting about his plans to write a book that would expose his victims' secrets, according to a New York Times report. This correspondence was being monitored by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. At sentencing, Judge Engelmayer said that the emails demonstrated that Knowles was “devoid of any remorse” and was a threat to commit the same crime again if released anytime soon, the Times further reported.

Background: Per the release: After breaking into the personal email accounts of entertainment, sports and media professionals, Knowles stole various copyrighted and confidential documents, including movie and TV scripts, personally identifiable information (including Social Security numbers), and private photos and videos, some of which were sexually explicit in nature.

In December 2015, Knowles attempted to sell some of the stolen materials to an undercover law enforcement agent for $80,000. He told the officer that he was able to break into the private accounts in some cases by infecting computers with a virus, and in other cases by tricking victims into giving him their passwords after sending them false email notifications claiming their accounts were hacked. Naturi Naughton, an actress on the Starz network series Power, was among the high-profile victims.

Knowles was arrested on Dec. 21, 2015 and on May 9, 2016 pleaded guilty to charges of criminal copyright infringement and identity theft.

Quote: "Alonzo Knowles hacked into the private emails of entertainment and sports celebrities, stole personal information and property, including unreleased movie and television scripts, and attempted to sell them to the highest bidder,” said Preet Bharara, U.S.  Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in the press release.“For his frightful violation of privacy, Knowles has been sentenced to substantial term of imprisonment.”

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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