Illegal immigrant accused of high-tech cyber crime provides cautionary tale about the dangers of computer crime in South Florida

The arrest this week of a computer hacker in California demonstrates how dangerous and complex the online world has become. As we recently reported on our Miami Criminal Attorney Blog, nearly one-third of all computer crimes in the United States originate in Florida.

For victims of computer crime in South Florida or those charged with cyber crimes in Miami, hiring an experienced Miami computer crimes lawyer is critical to protecting your rights. The location of the criminal makes little difference and the victims can live anywhere in the world.

In this case, the victim is accused of infecting more than 100 computers and using them to extort sexually explicit videos from women and teenage girls. The 31-year-old illegal immigrant was living in Santa Ana and was proficient in multiple computer languages, including Java and C++. The Associated Press reports he found victims on peer-to-peer networks, in which computer users share files and communications pathways. He disguised malicious computer code as popular songs and used it to infiltrate the computers of those who downloaded the files. Once infected, the code passed from computer to computer via instant messages.

The defendant then gained access to the computers of numerous victims in search of explicit images. In some cases he hacked e-mail accounts and posed as boyfriends seeking the photos. Most alarmingly, the FBI reports he was even able to turn on the webcams of some computers and record his own illicit images of unsuspecting victims. Authorities allege he then contacted the victims and threatened to distribute the images unless the woman and teenage girls made additional pornographic videos and sent them to him.

He was arrested this week after an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and thus far faces a federal extortion charge, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 2 years in prison. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have indicated they will take him into custody as an illegal alien once the case concludes. For now he has been released from jail on his own recognizance and ordered to remain under house arrest — with no access to a computer.

The Associated Press reports that authorities believe he infected more than 100 computers, resulting in about 230 identified victims, including at least 44 underage girls. Investigators said most of the identified victims live in the Southern California area but acknowledged that victims could live anywhere in the United States or even reside outside the country.