A Glendale man who hacked into hundreds of online accounts and victims’ computers, using extortion to coerce women into showing their naked bodies, was sentenced today to 60 months in federal prison.
Karen “Gary” Kazaryan, 27, was sentenced by United States District Judge George H. King, who said the defendant was a “cyber-terrorist.” Judge King remanded Kazaryan into custody at the conclusion of the sentencing hearing.
Kazaryan pleaded guilty in July to felony counts of computer hacking and aggravated identity theft.
In sentencing papers that recommended a six-year prison term, prosecutors wrote: “Kazaryan is a sexual cyber terrorist. He hacked into hundreds of victims’ email, Facebook, and Skype accounts using their usernames and passwords or password reset questions. He then methodically searched their accounts for naked pictures, passwords, and the contact information of their friends. He had two goals every time that he accessed these accounts: get more naked pictures in any way he could, and get more victims.”
According to court documents, Kazaryan gained unauthorized access to – meaning he hacked into – online accounts. In some cases, he obtained naked pictures from those accounts and then extorted the victims to provide additional photos and videos. If they refused, he posted the original pictures on the Internet. In other cases, Kazaryan posed as young women and asked their friends to provide naked photos.
“His victims were devastated and felt like they had been raped,” according to the sentencing memorandum. “They continue to be thoroughly traumatized by his criminal conduct.”
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Sextortion” is a type of extortion or blackmail of a victim who is usually asked for a nude image. The perpetrator typically threatens to publicly release a nude image unless a victim performs a sexual act or complies with other demands.
To avoid become a victim, everyone should be prudent when posting images online or to any wireless communication (computer, phone, tablet), especially if the images have private or compromising content. Victims who receive extortionate threats or whose personal accounts have been compromised are urged to contact a parent, trusted adult or law enforcement, since the situation will only worsen. As always, computer users are warned to ensure their passwords are difficult for others to guess, avoid opening unverified attachments, and use reliable anti-virus software with updated definitions. Lastly, computer users should cover their webcam when it’s not in use.