SAN FRANCISCO — Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that the operator of a cyber exploitation hacking scheme, who coordinated the hacking of over 300 email accounts, pled guilty to disruption of computer access in San Francisco Superior Court. Charles Evens, 26, will be sentenced on August 19, 2015.
“Evens is being held accountable for stealing victims’ most private and intimate images and profiting from this illegal activity,” said Attorney General Harris. “This case builds on our continued focus to prosecute perpetrators of cyber exploitation and to send a clear message that hiding behind a computer screen will not shield offenders from the full extent of the law.”
An investigation conducted by Attorney General Harris’ eCrime Unit found that Evens utilized a social engineering scheme in which he tricked Gmail account holders into providing the recovery code – which is provided as an additional security measure to Gmail users – for their accounts to him by posing as a Facebook friend. Once in possession of the recovery code, Evens would then change the recovery email to one of three email accounts under his control, gaining access to the victim’s Gmail account and any other accounts associated with that Gmail account. According to public statements, Evens used this unauthorized access to steal intimate images and access other personal content, which he then sold to Hunter Moore to post on his cyber exploitation website for amounts up to $900.
Once in control of a victim’s Gmail account, he reached out to new victims through linked Facebook accounts, stating that he had lost control of his account and needed to receive a Google reset verification code to unlock it. Shortly after providing Evens with the information, each new victim found that they no longer had access to their own Google accounts. One victim found that Evens had changed her Facebook password and contacted 15 of the victim’s friends using the same scheme.
Evens is also currently pending trial on multiple federal charges of identity theft, computer fraud and abuse, and conspiracy for his role as an accomplice to Hunter Moore, the operator of the cyber exploitation website IsAnyoneUp.com. The federal case alleges that Moore instructed Evens to gain unauthorized access to victim’s email accounts in order to gain additional nude and explicit images for his site. Evens stole intimate images from those accounts and subsequently sold them to Hunter Moore to post on his cyber exploitation website for amounts up to $900.
Attorney General Harris created the eCrime Unit in 2011 to identify and prosecute identity theft crimes, cybercrimes and other crimes involving the use of technology.
In April, Attorney General Harris announced an 18-year sentence for cyber exploitation operator Kevin Bollaert. Bollaert operated ugotposted.com, which allowed the anonymous, public posting of private photographs containing nude and explicit images of individuals without their permission. This case was the first prosecution in the country of an operator of a cyber exploitation website.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Harris announced a three-year jail sentence for Casey E. Meyering, 28, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who operated a cyber exploitation website WinByState.com and the associated website TakedownHammer. He pleaded no contest to one count of extortion, three counts of attempted extortion, and one count of conspiracy and was sentenced on June 8, 2015 to three years in jail.
Attorney General Harris also reminds users of e-mail and social networking sites to never give out account information unless you can verify the identity of the person asking for this information. Always remember that legitimate companies and government agencies will never ask you for your password or other confidential information online or over the phone. Visit a company’s website directly to access your account information, rather than trusting an email or text message claiming to provide information about the status of your account, and don’t response to messages with a link suggesting your account will be closed or suspended if you fail to respond.
A copy of the complaint submitted to the court can be found here. Please note that a complaint contains only allegations against a person and, as with all defendants, Charles Evens must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.