A Temecula man who allegedly hacked into email, social networking and other Internet accounts belonging to women and girls -- including Miss Teen USA -- and threatened to distribute nude photos of the victims unless they complied with his demands was arrested today.
Jared James Abrahams, 19, surrendered to FBI agents in Orange following the unsealing of a federal criminal complaint charging him with extortion.
Abrahams was slated to make his initial court appearance this afternoon at the federal courthouse in Santa Ana.
According to the FBI, the case involves multiple victims, some of them minors, throughout Southern California and Maryland, as well as Canada, Moldova and Russia.
The highest profile victim in the so-called ``sextortion'' investigation is Cassidy Wolf, an Orange County resident who won the Miss Teen USA pageant in August.
Wolf, identified as C.W. in court papers, contacted federal investigators in March after receiving a threatening email containing unauthorized nude photos of her.
The sender told the 18-year-old that if she didn't either send him a personal video of herself, join him on Skype for a video chat for five minutes during which he would tell her what to do, or send him ``good quality pics'' of herself, he would spread nude pics of her that he'd obtained and spread them ``all over the Internet,'' according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed by FBI Agent Julie Patton.
``Either you do one of the things listed or I upload these pics ... on all your accounts for everybody to see, and your dream of being a model will be transformed into a pornstar,'' the sender said.
According to Patton, C.W.'s laptop webcam had been hacked and photos of her in various states of undress had been snapped by the hacker. The victim's Facebook and email accounts were compromised as well, according to the FBI.
An online profile photo of the victim was supplanted -- without her knowledge -- to one showing her half-naked, Patton said.
According to the criminal complaint, Abrahams contacted women he did and didn't know personally. The defendant allegedly used malicious software, or malware, to access the victims' webcams and operate them remotely.
In one case, Abarhams allegedly hacked accounts possessed by a 17-year-old girl, apparently residing in Ireland. After sending the youth an extortionate email similar to the one allegedly sent to Wolf, the teenager agreed to comply with his demand to meet him via Skype and do whatever he requested, court papers state.
An April 11 message from the victim reads, ``Please remember, I'm only 17. Have a heart.'' Abrahams allegedly wrote back, ``I'll tell you this right now ... I do not have a heart!! ... Also age doesn't mean a thing to me!!!''
Using ``trap and trace'' devices that backtracked to Internet Protocol addresses and virtual private networks allegedly utilized by the defendant -- who used the online handle ``cutefuzzypuppy'' -- in contacting the victims, investigators were able to identify him, according to court papers.
Search warrants were served at his Temecula residence in June, during which his computers and other evidence were seized.
The investigation revealed that at one time, Abrahams had as many as 100-150 ``slave computers,'' or those that he had allegedly hacked into and controlled remotely.
Investigators believe more victims have yet to be identified.