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A Rochester man accused of hacking numerous password-protected computer accounts of many women and possessing 450 unauthorized computer files, is facing federal charges.
Justin Potts, 26, was charged with unauthorized access of a protected computer, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Authorities allege that he targeted more than 150 victims through the scheme.
Rochester police in March 2017 alerted the FBI’S Cyber Task Force about Potts, who was previously arrested and accused of using his cellphone to take photos of woman undressing at several local tanning salons.
Potts is currently serving 1 to 3 years in state prison following a felony conviction for second-degree unlawful surveillance in 2017.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Marangola, who is prosecuting the case, Potts allegedly conducted a “multi-year, multi-state, campaign to access the online accounts primarily associated with young women.”
Following a lengthy investigation, agents determined that computer storage devices owned by Potts held about 450 computer files that contained indications that he had gained unauthorized access into many women’s password-protected accounts.
It appeared that Potts targeted university and personal email accounts, Facebook accounts, Apple iCloud and online password managers, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
After authorities executed a search warrant at his home, an FBI agent was able to identify multiple images saved in a file on one of the hard drives seized from the home. The saved filed was named after the victim, court documents allege.
Potts allegedly accessed the victim’s iCloud account on June 5, 2016, and he was able to secure her Facebook login and password, the criminal complaint stated.
Authorities allege he followed this same path for many of the victims.
“All accounts that Potts accessed required a password, a passcode or some other security feature that was meant to prevent people other than the owner/user from entering the account,” according to the criminal complaint.
Many files on one hard drive contained nude and revealing images of some of the women whose accounts he allegedly hacked. Investigators also found nude images of celebrities. believed to be downloaded from file sharing sites, according to a news release.
“Based upon my training and experience, combined with a review of the folders, (the FBI agent) believes that Potts was conducting a broad effort to collect revealing images of young females,” FBI special agent Todd McCormack wrote in an affidavit.
McCormack later wrote, “”The search of these hard drives (seized from Potts’s home) confirmed that they contained personal information, images and online account information of numerous women who seemingly did not know Potts had entered their online accounts.”
Many of the victims were friends of people he knew, authorities said. One of the victims, a 24-year-old woman, was a friend of Potts’s former girlfriend at the State University College at Geneseo.
When she was interviewed by police, the victim said she did not know Potts and had never given him access to any of her accounts. McCormack outlined interviews with five different victims in his affidavit.
Potts was arraigned in federal court by Judge Marian W. Payson on Thursday.
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