"This case has all of the elements of the kind of blockbuster script the defendant, Alonzo Knowles, is alleged to have stolen: hacks into celebrities’ private emails, identity theft, and attempts to sell victims’ information to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, these circumstances are all too real," The United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, said in a statement, as quoted by The New York Times.
Investigators first learned of the scheme from the executive producer of an unidentified television show. The producer had allegedly been contacted by a radio show host, who said that a man (Knowles) had approached him about selling scripts to the television series.
Those types of compromised information invoke the memories of both the Apple iCloud hack and the Sony Pictures Entertainment breach that occurred last year.
As reported by Endgadget, Knowles would oftentimes hack into celebrities' email accounts to look for sensitive information. When he could not get in, he would try to hack the friends of celebrities, send his targets a text telling them that their account had been hacked and that he needed their passwords, or infect their machines with a computer virus.
The hacker and the undercover agent ultimately settled on a deal of 15 movie and television scripts for $80,000. The Wall Street Journal points out that Knowles agreed to fly to New York and provided the agent with his date of birth, passport number, and MoneyGram account so that the flight could be arranged.
On Monday, the two met, at which point in time the agent arrested Knowles.
The hacker's lawyer declined to comment on the charges.