The Florida man who has admitted to hacking into the email accounts of A-list celebrities including Mila Kunis and Scarlett Johansson has revealed that a fascination with celebrities turned into an addiction that snowballed out of control.
"It started as curiosity and it turned into just being addicted to seeing behind-the-scenes of what was going on with these people you see on the big screen every day," Christopher Chaney told CBS News' Jacksonville affiliate WTEV in an exclusive interview. "I was almost relieved months ago when they came and took the computer and told me what was going on because I didn't know how to stop doing it myself."
Chaney, 35, was arrested and charged on Wednesday with 26 counts of identity theft, unauthorized access and unauthorized damage to a protected computer. His arrest came after a year-long FBI investigation named "Operation Hackerazzi."
Chaney allegedly hacked into Yahoo, Apple and Google email addresses of at least 50 celebrities, obtaining personal information and photos that he leaked to other Internet sites.
A calm and apologetic Chaney told WTEV that he plans on pleading guilty and never intended to sell images or use information for blackmail, but when he realized what he could do with his computer skills, he couldn't resist.
"It was almost like reading a completely uncensored blog," Chaney said. "Honestly, I don't even remember how or when it started or with who it started. It just happened and snowballed."
The federal indictment said Chaney went by the screen names "trainreqsuckswhat," "anonygrrl" and "jaxjaguars911." He would use information about the celebrities to guess their passwords and gain access to their email accounts.
Then, he would "set the email forwarding feature of the email account to send virtually instantaneously a copy of every email received in the celebrity's account to a different email account that he controlled," according to the indictment.
"Chaney stole not only private, personal photographs of the victim, he also took financial information, movie scripts and conversations that the victims believed to be private," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in a news conference. Chaney told WTEV he was "stupid" and is prepared to own up to actions.
"I'm not trying to escape what I did. I know what I did and that it was wrong," Chaney said. "I've had six months to think about it and it just eats at me because when you're doing it, you're not thinking about what's going on with who you're doing it to."
When asked what he would like to say to the victims of his hacking, he expressed remorse.
"I deeply apologize. I know what I did was probably one of the worst invasions of privacy someone could experience and these people don't have privacy to begin with," he said. "And I was in that little sliver of privacy they do have.
If convicted on all counts, Chaney could spend the rest of his life behind bars. He faces a maximum sentence of 121 years in prison. He is out of jail on bond and scheduled to appear in court on Friday.
When asked directly why he did what he did, Chaney answered simply: "Like I said, pure curiosity. That's how it started and I wish it hadn't."