Karen “Gary” Kazaryan, 27, was arrested on Tuesday by special agents with the FBI. Kazaryan, who was named in a 30-count indictment returned last Friday by a federal grand jury, has been arraigned later that day in United States District Court.
According to the indictment, Kazaryan gained unauthorized access to – in other words, hacked into – the victims’ accounts, and changed the passwords, which locked victims out of their own online accounts.
Once he controlled the accounts, Kazaryan searched emails or other files for naked or semi-naked pictures of the victims, as well as other information, such as passwords and the names of their friends. Using that information, Kazaryan posed online as women, sent instant messages to their friends, and persuaded the friends to remove their clothing so that he could view and take pictures of them.
When the victims discovered that they were not speaking with their friends, Kazaryan often extorted them again, using the photos he had fraudulently obtained to again coerce the victims to remove their clothing on camera.
The indictment charges Kazaryan with 15 counts of computer intrusion and 15 counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to a search warrant executed in 2011 and unsealed on Tuesday, Kazaryan repeatedly contacted victims to demand that they expose their breasts to him on Skype, and used their email and Facebook accounts to make contact with other victims. Kazaryan allegedly posted nude photos of some victims on their Facebook pages when they failed to comply with his demands.
Investigators estimate that Kazaryan victimized more than 350 women, but they have not identified all of the victims whose accounts were hacked. Authorities found approximately 3,000 pictures of nude or semi-nude women – some of which were taken from their online accounts, and some of which were taken by Kazaryan on Skype – on Kazaryan’s computer.
If convicted on all counts, Kazaryan faces a statutory maximum penalty of 105 years in federal prison.
This is not the first instance in which an individual has tried to "sextort" its victims by breaking into their online accounts and stealing compromising photos. Similar incidents have happened regularly over the course of the last half-decade.