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Hacker charged with extortion for sex videos

June 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Santa Ana man was charged Tuesday with federal extortion, alleging he hacked into dozens of computers, obtained personal data and demanded sexually explicit videos of female victims. Luis Mijangos, 31, was arrested at his residence by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation 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.

Mijangos made his first court appearance in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday morning where he was released on a $10,000 unsecured appearance bond on condition of home detention with no computers, his attorney Sylvia Torres-Guillen said.

Officials of the United States Attorney say Mijangos' arrest comes after a six-month investigation by the Glendale Police Department and FBI.

The Glendale Police Department contacted the FBI after receiving a complaint from a victim and realizing a number of victims could be involved in what appeared to be the work of a sophisticated computer hacker.

Mijangos told FBI agents he was a consultant and studied Java and C++, two computer programming languages.

"He did have technical proficiency," U.S. attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek said.

Mrozek said that federal extortion cases are relatively rare but this case is unique because it "doesn't involve demands for money but for demands of sexually explicit videos."

Investigators say Mijangos targeted young women and teenage girls and used the lure of popular songs to infect their computers.

The affidavit outlines a series of schemes that Mijangos used to infect computers around the world. The affidavit says Mijangos got the victims to download malware by making the files appear to be popular songs.

Once the victims downloaded the malware, Mijangos was able to control their computers, allowing him to send instant messages containing malware to other people in the victims' address books.

Authorities alleged once Mijangos controlled victims' computers, he searched for sexually explicit or intimate images and videos of women in various states of undress or engaged in sexual acts with their partners.

Mijangos contacted the female victims telling them he had the images and threatened to distribute them to people in their address books, unless they made additional videos for him.

He also threatened to release the images if the victims called police.

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

Mijangos claimed to be affiliated with an underground gang of hackers.

He is accused of using the software to steal credit card numbers and personal identification information that he allegedly used to engage in identity theft and to buy merchandise.

The affidavit says Mijangos was able to remotely access victims' webcams and turn them on in an attempt to catch the women in intimate situations. Investigators say he was successful on occasion.

According to the affidavit, during his arrest, Mijangos admitted that he hacked into computers, but claimed he did so at the request of boyfriends and husbands who wanted to know if their partners were cheating on them.

Mijangos allegedly admitted his involvement in an international network of hackers and his participation in credit card fraud.

His preliminary hearing is set for July 13 and he is scheduled to be arraigned July 19, where he will plead "not guilty," his attorney said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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