Miss Teen USA 'sextortion' plot: Temecula man arrested
SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- A 19-year-old Temecula man was arrested on Thursday for allegedly hacking into webcams at the homes of Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf and other young women to try to extort nude photos and videos.
Jared Abrahams surrendered to federal agents at the FBI office in Orange County, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
Wolf, also of Temecula, won the Miss Teen USA crown last month. The 19-year-old woman said she received an anonymous email in which the sender claimed to have stolen images from the camera on her home computer. The sender threatened to go public with the images unless Wolf sent him nude pictures of herself.
One of the alleged emails in the criminal complaint said: "Here's what's going to happen! Either you do one of the things listed below or I upload these pics and a lot more (I have a LOT more and those are better quality) on all your accounts for everybody to see and your dream of being a model will be transformed into a pornstar."
That email was reportedly sent to Wolf. Wolf did not send nude pictures and instead went straight to authorities. The investigation began in March, and according to the FBI, there were "multiple" victims from Riverside County and beyond. Some lived as far away as Ireland, Canada and Russia. Wolf was identified in the criminal complaint only by her initials, and the other victims were not identified.
"C.W. became concerned that her computer had been compromised after receiving an alert from a social networking site advising of a failed attempt to change her password. C.W. later learned that passwords had been changed to multiple online accounts and that an online profile photo had been changed to a half-nude picture she did not authorize," the FBI said in a press release.
The complaint alleges Abrahams used malicious software to disguise his identity in order to capture nude photos or videos of victims through remote operation of cameras on their home computers without their consent. The complaint says he contacted some victims using others' email accounts he had taken over, threatening to make public the images and videos unless they submitted to one of three demands: send nude photos, send a nude video, or log onto Skype and do what he says for five minutes.
FBI agents raided Abrahams' Temecula home in June and seized computers and hardware, cellphones and hacking software, court records show.
During Abrahams' initial appearance in court Thursday, the judge struggled to find the appropriate conditions for his release. The main concern was how to keep the computer science major from having access to the Internet. Abrahams was released to his parents on a $50,000 bond. He will be confined to his home, forced to wear a monitoring device and submit to pre-trial supervision.
His parents also had to sign a declaration for the court saying they will limit his access to a computer to the one desktop computer they have in the family room and he can only use it for school purposes.
Abrahams' attorney, Alan Eisner, spoke on behalf of the family, explaining that his client has been struggling with autism for years.
"They do want to express their profound regret and remorse for his behavior. He's autistic, and the family wants to apologize for the consequences of his behavior to the families that were affected, to the parents of the families that were affected," said Eisner.
Abrahams is expected back in court on Nov. 4.
Meantime, Wolf's grandmother said her family is very happy that the case has been solved.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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