Former state department employee Michael C. Ford systematically phished, hacked, and cyberstalked hundreds of women—in particular college-aged women, often sorority members or aspiring models. He often stole sexually explicit photographs, and threatened at least 75 women that he would release the photos and other information unless they agreed to send him more photographs. And he did it all from his government-issued computer in the American embassy in London, according to prosecutors.
A judge, who is set to sentence the 36-year-old on Monday, has recommended that Ford receives eight years in prison. The Associated Press reports that prosecutors are arguing that he preyed on hundreds of women to feel powerful:
“He stated that his wife is the ‘alpha and breadwinner’ in their family, and he was doing this to fill a ‘power void,’ prosecutors wrote in a court filing.”
“Ford engaged in an international sextortion campaign,” said U.S. Attorney John Horn in a statement last August. “He tormented numerous women by threatening to humiliate them unless they provided him with sexually explicit photos and videos, and in some cases, he followed through on his threats.”
From the AP:
In a single day last April, he sent 800 phishing emails, and 180 follow-up messages to potential victims who hadn’t responded to his initial email and to 15 others who had provided incorrect passwords, prosecutors said. Another day in April, he sent initial harassing emails with photos attached to 98 new victims...
Ford was arrested in May and pleaded guilty in December to nine counts of cyberstalking, seven counts of computer hacking to extort and one count of wire fraud. The cyberstalking and hacking counts each carry a maximum of five years in prison, while the wire fraud count carries up to 20 years in prison.
The defense team has been quick to acknowledge Ford’s guilt, but argues that too long of a sentence would leave his pregnant wife and two-year-old son financially unstable.
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