Romanian indicted for hacking email accounts of high-profile people

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A Romanian using the online moniker "Guccifer" was indicted on Thursday on US charges of hacking into email accounts of high-profile people, including family of former presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush.

Marcel Lehel Lazar, 42, is accused of wire fraud, unauthorised access to a protected computer, aggravated identity theft, cyberstalking and obstruction of justice.

Lazar is already serving a seven-year prison term in Romania, where he was arrested in January and charged with hacking the email accounts of many Romanian officials, including the head of the national intelligence service.

The US indictment comes a year after a probe was launched over the breach of email accounts belonging to the former American presidents as well as other members of their family. The investigative website, The Smoking Gun, reported at the time that hackers had accessed several email accounts and then published personal photos and private correspondence belonging to the Bushes and their loved ones.

The hacker apparently intercepted photos that former president George W. Bush emailed to his sister showing paintings that he was working on, including self-portraits of him showering and in a bathtub, the report said.

Another picture showed the elder Bush in a hospital bed, a snapshot purportedly taken by his daughter, Dorothy Bush Koch, whose AOL account was among those apparently hacked.

The Justice Department said the incidents occurred from December 2012 to January 2014.

"Lazar hacked into the email and social media accounts of high-profile victims, including a family member of two former US presidents, a former US cabinet member, a former member of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former presidential advisor," the statement said.