ALEXANDRIA, Va. – On May 25, Marcel Lehel Lazar, the Romanian national also known as the hacker “Guccifer,” who claims to have easily hacked into Hillary Clinton’s email server, entered into a plea agreement, pleading guilty to one count of unauthorized access of a protected computer and one count of aggravated identity theft, which was accepted by U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris.
In exchange, the court agreed to dismiss seven other counts, which included wire fraud, unauthorized access of a protected computer, cyberstalking and obstruction of justice.
Lazar, while residing in Arad, Romania, was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 12, 2014, was extradited to the United States and taken into custody on March 31, 2016.
Lazar specialized in gaining unauthorized access to the online accounts of high-profile individuals and publicly releasing his victims’ information, including the content of emails, personal identifying information and other private property.
In a previous scheme, Lazar called himself “Micul Fum” (“Little Smoke”) in connection with similar hacking activity, where he unlawfully accessed the email accounts of Romanian celebrities and athletes and released their private information on the internet.
In this case, the victims, who were not named, included a family member of two former U.S. presidents, a sanitation engineer, a former U.S. Cabinet member, a former member of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, a journalist and former presidential advisor, and a foreign national who was a former senior foreign government official.
According to the Statement of Facts supporting his guilty plea, beginning in at least October 2012 and continuing into January 2014, Lazar intentionally gained unauthorized access to numerous personal email and social media accounts, including those belonging to high-profile individuals in the United States.
Lazar is said to have victimized approximately 100 individuals in the United States, including former government officers or employees and the immediate family members of former government officers or employees.
In an effort to conceal his identity, Lazar accessed the victims’ accounts from proxy servers located in other countries, including Russia.
After accessing one victim’s Facebook account, Lazar changed the passwords and then posted the following, among others, as public messages: “You will burn in hell, Bush!” and “Kill the illuminati! Tomorrow’s world will be a world free of illuminati or will be no more!”
Lazar signed some of his content with the alias “Guccifer.”
After accessing victims’ accounts, Lazar would reset the account password and security questions to retain control of the accounts.
Lazar would send correspondence from one victim’s breached account to another victim’s account and, in some instances, sent emails from one victim’s account to multiple media organizations attaching content, dubbed the Guccifer Archive, he had unlawfully obtained from another victim’s account.
In December 2013, Lazar destroyed a computer and mobile phone with the intent to impede the investigation into the matter, which he knew was within the jurisdiction of a department and agency of the United States, and in contemplation of an investigation by federal authorities into his fraudulent and unauthorized access of protected computers.
On Jan. 6, 2014, The Smoking Gun published a story based upon the contents of the Guccifer Archive that included a list of previously unknown victims along with details about the hacks and the contents Lazar illegally obtained from his victims’ hacked accounts.
The maximum penalties for the offense of unauthorized access to a protected computer are: a maximum term of five years of imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, full restitution, forfeiture of assets, a special assessment of $100, and one year of supervised release. The maximum penalties for the offense of aggravated identity theft are: a mandatory minimum term of two years of imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, full restitution, forfeiture of assets, a special assessment of $100, and one year of supervised release.
After being convicted in Romania in February 2012 on charges of gaining unauthorized access to the online accounts of Romanian nationals, Lazar received a suspended sentence of three years’ imprisonment.
Lazar was arrested again on Jan. 22, 2014 by Romanian authorities and subsequently convicted of gaining unauthorized access to the online accounts of Romanian nationals, including the personal accounts of the then-director of the Romanian Intelligence Service.
In June 2014, Lazar was sentenced to a term of four years’ imprisonment for those crimes plus three years for his prior offenses for a total of seven years.
Lazar is scheduled to appear at 10 a.m. on Sept. 1, 2016 for sentencing and remains in custody as a flight risk.
It wasn’t clear from court documents if Lazar will serve his sentence in the United States first or if he will serve his sentence in Romania first.
There was mention of an international agreement, under which Lazar could possibly serve his entire sentence in Romania, if he were to make such a request and if it is approved.
There has been some speculation that the plea agreement, which involves Lazar’s complete cooperation with the FBI and probable disclosure of hacked emails from Clinton’s private email server, could lead to an indictment of Clinton.