Crime & Justice

Californian Accused Of Sex Extortion Via Computer

A California computer hacker took over more than 100 computers and used them to extort sexually explicit videos from women and teenage girls by threatening to release their personal data, federal prosecutors charged Tuesday.

Luis Mijangos, 31, of Santa Ana, Calif., was arrested at his home by FBI agents and was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon on a charge of extortion that carries a maximum federal prison sentence of two years, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office.

A telephone listing for Mijangos could not be immediately located.

The scheme was sophisticated, U.S. attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek said.

"He did have technical proficiency," Mrozek said.

Some victims have been identified and most are believed to be in Southern California, but some could be elsewhere in the world, he said.

Federal investigators contend that Mijangos found victims on peer-to-peer networks, in which several computer users share files and communication pathways.

According to an affidavit, Mijangos sent out files disguised as popular songs that contained malicious computer code. The malware infected the victims' computers and was passed to their friends' and relatives' machines in the form of infected instant messages, authorities said.

"Once he had control of a computer, Mijangos searched for sexually explicit or intimate images and videos of women, typically young women and girls in various states of undress or engaged in sexual acts with their partners," according to the statement.

He also hacked e-mail accounts and, posing as some victims' boyfriends, asked them to make pornographic videos, authorities said.

Occasionally, Mijangos was able to remotely turn on some victims' webcams to catch them in "intimate situations," the U.S. attorney's statement said.

Prosecutors contend that Mijangos contacted some victims and threatened to distribute their sexually explicit videos to their computer contacts unless they made additional videos for him or if they went to the police.

He infected more than 100 computers that were used by about 230 people, including at least 44 who were minors, the FBI said.

The FBI investigation began after police in the Los Angeles suburb Glendale received a victim's complaint.

Mijangos acknowledged to FBI agents that he hacked the computers but said he did so at the request of the victims' boyfriends and husband to determine whether the victims were cheating on them, authorities alleged.

Copyright 2010 National Public Radio.

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