In the eyes of authorities, Luis Mijangos was a skilled computer hacker who went on the rampage and tried to extort sexually explicit videos from women and girls in what some referred to as a “sextortion” case.
On Thursday, Mijangos ,32, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, who lived in Santa Ana, Calif., was sentenced to 6 years in prison in Los Angeles federal court for his sinister crime.
Authorities said that FBI computer forensics experts determined that Mijangos infected more than 100 computers that were used by approximately 230 individuals, of which at least 44 were juveniles.
The affidavit in the case alleged that Mijangos infected computers around the world with a malicious computer code, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Mijangos then got his victims to download “the malware onto their computers by making the files appear to be popular songs,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated. “After the victims downloaded the malware, Mijangos was able to control their computers, allowing him to send instant messages containing malware from those computers to other people in the victims’ address books. These later victims thought they were receiving messages from friends or family members.”
Authorities said once he got into the computers, he searched for sexually explicit or intimate images and videos of women and girls in ” various states of undress or engaged in sexual acts with their partners.”
Mijangos contacted the female victims and threatened to distribute intimate images and videos to people in their contact list unless they made additional explicit videos for him.
He also told victims he could tell via their computers if they tried calling police, and threatened to release the videos and images if they called authorities, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
On top of all of that, he also allegedly installed a “keylogger” on victims’ computers to record every key strokes on the infected computers and was then able to steal credit card numbers and personal identifying info to purchase merchandise, authorities alleged.
He also hacked into victims’ boyfriends email account, posed as the boyfriends and asked them to create to create pornographic videos for him, authorities said. After that, he contacted the victims — using an alias — and threatened to distribute the explicit videos if they didn’t send him more.
As if that wasn’t enough, on occasion he was able to access webcams to catch victims in intimate situations.
Authorities said Mijangos told FBI agents that he hacked into the computers, but did so on behalf of husbands and boyfriends to see if the women were cheating on them.
“We now live in a world gone digital, relying on our personal computers for everything from banking, to learning, to intimate communications with friends and family,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. in a statement. “Mr. Mijangos invaded the sanctity of many personal digital worlds and used intimate content to victimize and prey upon unsuspecting victims.”
Added Steven M. Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, stated: “The sentence imposed on Mr. Mijangos is appropriate based on the chilling impact his behavior had on scores of young women. The FBI has seen a rise in similar cases based on the exploitation of emerging technologies by criminals, and it’s my hope that this sentence serves as a warning for victims of Internet predators to advise law enforcement or a trusted source when threatened, and always refrain from sending compromising photographs via cyberspace.”
Authorities said during Thursday’s sentencing hearing, two sextortion victims described how they were subjected to “nightmare” situations. One young woman said that before Mijangos victimized her she had been a victim of domestic violence, “and I want to tell you, there’s no difference.”
In sentencing Mijangos, Judge George H. King said: “This was nothing short of a sustained effort to terrorize victims.”