Bahamian arrested in US for hacking into celebrities' emails

Alonzo Knowles, 23, has been arrested for hacking into celebrities' email accounts.
Alonzo Knowles, 23, has been arrested for hacking into celebrities' email accounts. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Bahamian man has been arrested for hacking into celebrities' email accounts to steal movie and television scripts, personal information and sexually explicit videos that he peddled to an undercover agent, federal prosecutors in New York said on Tuesday.

Alonzo Knowles, 23, was held without bail after an appearance in Manhattan federal court on criminal copyright infringement and identity theft charges.

Manhattan United States Attorney Preet Bharara said the case had the elements of the type of blockbuster scripts Knowles is alleged to have stolen. "Unfortunately, these circumstances are all too real," he said in a statement.

Knowles kept at least 130 celebrities' emails and phone numbers, said a criminal complaint, which noted that his victims included movie and TV actors, a casting director, a popular singer-songwriter and a hip-hop artist.

Prosecutors did not identify the celebrities, movies or shows involved.

Knowles takes the charges "extremely seriously", Clay Kaminsky, his court-appointed lawyer, said in the hearing. The attorney declined to comment afterwards.

Knowles was arrested on Monday in Manhattan, a day after arriving from the Bahamas to sell the undercover agent 15 scripts for unreleased movies and TV shows for US$80,000, prosecutors said.

He had emailed the agent sexually explicit videos and photos that a television host and columnist had sent to a radio host, the complaint said.

The probe began after another radio host earlier this month received an unsolicited offer from someone selling scripts for the upcoming season of a popular drama on a premium cable television network, it added.

At the court hearing, Assistant US Attorney Kristy Greenberg argued against releasing Knowles, a resident of Freeport, Bahamas, on bail, calling him a flight risk and a danger to the community. "The scope of the crime here is potentially quite large,"she said, noting that the ongoing investigation began a few weeks ago.