Felony Charges for Hacking Selena Gomez’s Email

This past July a New Jersey woman was arraigned on five felony counts of identity theft in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. According to investigators, the woman hacked the email accounts of singer/actress Selena Gomez and one of her associates.

Felony Charges for Hacking Selena Gomez’s Email

Susan Atrach, 21, was accused of hacking and stealing digital property from Gomez. She allegedly accessed email accounts belonging to Gomez and her associate several times between June 2015 and February 201. She then obtained private images, including nude photos of Justin Bieber that were taken as Gomez and Bieber vacationed in Bora Bora in 2015, and other media stored in Gomez’s account and then posted that information online.

It’s believed that Atrach broke into Gomez’s Apple iCloud and Yahoo! accounts by using publicly-available information in order to answer the “secret questions” that are often used as security check-points.

Gomez is not the first celebrity to fall victim to this type of identity theft. Hackers have previously managed to breach the iCloud accounts of hundreds of singers and actresses, including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Miley Cyrus, and Kim Kardashian, obtain nude photos and videos and then post them online.

Charges for Atrach

She was charged with five felony counts of identity theft and accessing and using computer data to commit fraud or to control money, property or data, and one felony count of accessing and using computer data or taking supporting documentation without permission.

While this might not seem a standard “identity theft” case, meaning that Atrach wasn’t necessarily trying to pose as Gomez, the fact that she used Gomez’s information to hack into her private accounts, it can be charged as identity theft.

If convicted, she could face up to nine years and eight months in state prison if convicted, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Hacking and Identity Theft

Hacking crime is committed through the use of computers, the Internet, or virtual networks, and is defined as the unlawful access of – or entry into – the computer terminal, database, or digital record system belonging to another individual. Typically, the act of hacking is done with the intent to commit a computer-based, electronic criminal act. Unlawfully, illegally, and harmfully collecting or amassing an individual’s private information, including any photos, videos or personal information, with regards to the internet, a computer, or alternative electronic network may result the in the illicit possession and misuse of personal data without the consent of the victim.
Hacking into a computer can also be defined as virtual trespassing by means of collecting personal data in an intrusive manner. The act of hacking is considered one of the foremost means facilitated by individuals attempting to commit identity theft, which is why it is charged as “identify theft.”

Charged with Identity Theft?

In our post-911 world identity theft accusations should be taken very seriously. If you have been accused, you’ll want to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.

With innovations in technology making everyone’s personal and financial information more readily available on the Internet, identity theft has become increasingly more prevalent in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California. As a result, California law enforcement officials and federal government agencies have begun to aggressively investigate identity theft crimes and California prosecutors are making it a priority to pursue convictions against individuals accused of identity theft. In fact, many police departments and prosecutor’s offices have created special task forces to investigate and prosecute individuals charged with identity theft to reduce the impact on victims and the community, and some identity theft cases may even fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, which imposes devastating penalties on such criminal offenses. This renewed fight against identity theft at the state and federal level means your rights and personal freedoms may be at risk if you have been charged with identity theft in Los Angeles. Contact our reputable lawyers at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today to discuss the best defense strategy for your criminal case.

Identity Theft

As the name suggests, identity theft is a type of theft crime. However, rather than stealing someone’s physical personal property – a violation of California Penal Code § 484 PC petty theft – Penal Code § 530.5 PC is the act of willfully obtaining another person’s personal identifying information and using that information for any unlawful or fraudulent purpose. Identity theft occurs when a person intentionally obtains and uses someone else’s personal identifying information, such as their name, Social Security number, birth certificate, telephone number, PIN number or password, credit card number, bank account information or driver’s license number, without permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Each case of California identity theft is unique, but some of the most common types of identity theft include:

  • Financial identity theft – Using someone else’s identity to obtain goods, services, and/or credit
  • Criminal identity theft – Using someone else’s identity when arrested for committing a crime
  • Medical identity theft – Using someone else’s identity to obtain medical care and/or prescriptions
  • Identity cloning – Using someone else’s personal identifying information to assume their identity in everyday life
  • Child identity theft – Using a child’s identity for one or more of these purposes
  • Business identity theft – Posing as an owner or employee of a business to obtain cash, credit or loans

Identity theft can be carried out by the physical act of stealing someone’s wallet or mail, or by using the Internet to steal information via hacking, phishing, spamming or counterfeiting. For defendants facing charges of Los Angeles identity theft, each item in their possession that contains the personal information of the alleged victim is considered a separate offense. Some other criminal offenses related to identity theft include Penal Code § 470 PC forgery, Penal Code § 503 PC embezzlement, Penal Code § 502 PC unauthorized computer access, Penal Code § 182 PC conspiracyPenal Code § 368 PC elder abuse, and Penal Code § 530.5(e) PC mail theft.

Affordable Identity Theft Defense Attorney in Los Angeles

Identity theft is a complex financial crime that can be charged as a federal offense carrying a prison sentence of up to 30 years, and by hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney, you can significantly increase your chances of getting the best possible outcome in your identity theft case. Contact Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today for a free, no-obligation identity theft defense consultation. Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys understand the complex nature of state and federal identity theft crimes, have extensive knowledgeable of the criminal justice system, and know how to best defend you against these charges. Our attorneys will review your criminal case, ensure that you understand the charges against you, determine the best legal strategies for your defense, and answer any questions you may have about the legal process. With the help of our knowledgeable lawyers, you may even be able to resolve your criminal case without going to jail.

Conviction for Identity Theft Penal Code § 530.5

With state and federal laws prohibiting identity theft, and severe penalties associated with the crime, being arrested for identity theft may seem like the end of the world. However, the prosecution in an identity theft case bears the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that, in order to get an identity theft conviction, the California prosecutor assigned to your case must provide evidence proving beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following elements of the crime:

  • You obtained someone else’s personal identifying information;
  • You did not have permission or consent to obtain or use the personal identifying information; and
  • You used the personal identifying information for an unlawful purpose or with fraudulent intent.

Penalties for an Identity Theft Conviction

The state of California takes identity theft very seriously, and individuals arrested for identity theft in Los Angeles stand to face severe criminal penalties if convicted of the crime. Under California Penal Code § 530.5 PC, identity theft is a “wobbler” offense, which means the crime can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on a number of factors, including the extent of the illegal behavior, the total value of the property you have allegedly unlawfully received, whether your alleged actions caused anyone to suffer significant harm, and whether you have any prior convictions for identity theft or related offenses. If, for example, you are accused of stealing someone’s credit card number to make a single purchase online, you would likely face less severe penalties than if you were accused of applying for a mortgage or another type of loan using that person’s name and information, or using their Social Security number to collect welfare or other insurance benefits.

Identity theft can be charged in either a state or federal prosecution, and federal identity theft laws are far more severe than California state laws. As a misdemeanor crime, identity theft is punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines, and as a felony, California identity theft is punishable by 16 months, two or three years in state prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines. However, if you face federal identity theft charges, you could face increased penalties and up to 30 years in federal prison. There are additional penalties that may go along with an identity theft conviction, including community service and parole or probation, and you could also lose your job and be forced to pay back the alleged victim for any losses he or she incurred. Furthermore, each individual act of identity theft is charged as a separate offense under Penal Code § 530.5 PC, which can significantly increase the maximum prison sentence and fines associated with a Los Angeles identity theft conviction.

Defenses to Identity Theft Charges

Just because you have been arrested for identity theft in Los Angeles does not mean you are guilty of the crime. It is also important to understand what the various components of an identity theft crime mean, as each element of the crime must be proven by the prosecution in order for a conviction to be made. For example, simply obtaining and possessing another person’s personal identifying information may not rise to the level of California identity theft, unless you used the information in either an unlawful manner or with fraudulent intent. It is your Constitutional right to hire a criminal defense attorney to represent your identity theft case and defend your legal rights, and the following are some possible defenses an attorney can use to explain or justify your alleged actions:

  • You did not have the required criminal intent
  • You have been falsely accused
  • You are the victim of mistaken identity
  • You had permission to obtain and use the identifying information
  • You did not use the information for an illegal or fraudulent purpose

Hiring an Experienced Identity Theft Defense Attorney in Los Angeles

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in California and across the United States, and the consequences of an identity theft conviction can be devastating and long-lasting. Even after you have served your time in jail and paid your debt to society, you will still have a criminal record, which can affect every aspect of your life, including your ability to obtain employment and participate in certain government assistance programs. If you are under investigation for or have been charged with identity theft in Los Angeles, don’t hesitate to secure qualified legal representation. Our legal team at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles has extensive experience protecting the rights of clients facing California identity theft charges and will work tirelessly to help you build a strong defense in your case and minimize the penalties of your identity theft arrest. We are committed to preventing innocent individuals from being unlawfully imprisoned for identity theft crimes and will hold the prosecution to its requisite burden of proof.