A Georgia man is facing three years and one month in prison and ordered to pay $697,270 in restitution after his sentencing Thursday in federal prison for hacking into more than 100 Apple accounts belonging to high-profile professional athletes and rappers and spending nearly $325,000 using stolen financial information from several of these victims.
Kwamaine Jerell Ford, 27, of Dacula, Georgia, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr. In addition to the sentence, he will also have three years of supervised release. Ford pleaded guilty to computer fraud and aggravated identity theft charges on March 28.
Beginning in at least March 2015, Ford targeted college and professional athletes, including NBA and NFL players, and rappers in a “phishing” scheme, said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. Ford sent thousands of phishing emails to victims from email accounts he set up to spoof legitimate Apple customer service accounts.
Ford, posing as an Apple customer support representative, requested the victims send him their username and password or answers to security challenge questions, which Ford claimed was needed either to reset their Apple accounts or to access videos that individuals were purportedly trying to send the victims, Pak said. More than 100 victims provided their login credentials for Apple accounts based on the phishing scheme.
After obtaining the victims’ passwords, Ford gained complete control over the victim accounts by resetting the account passwords and changing the victims’ credentials and contact information. As a result, the victims could not log into their own accounts unless they contacted Apple by phone and proved their identity, Pak said. Apple records showed hundreds of unauthorized logins to victim Apple accounts.
After gaining control of the victims’ Apple accounts, Ford found credit card information belonging to several victims. Ford then used the stolen credit card numbers to spend $322,567 over a three-year period, including thousands of dollars in flights, car travel, hotels, retail purchases, restaurants, and cash transfers to his online financial accounts, Pak said.
“Ford targeted celebrities and professional athletes in his identity theft scheme and used credit card information stolen from these victims to fund his personal lifestyle,” Pak said. “Citizens should remember that anyone can fall prey to identity theft, and they should be vigilant in protecting their personal information.”
“In today’s high tech world, citizens entrust their personal information to a number of service providers and expect that information to be protected,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta. “Unfortunately, identity thieves are becoming more creative and more devious. But the FBI’s dedicated agents are determined to keep up with that devious creativity to protect our citizens and bring suspects like Ford to justice.”