A Northridge man who paid about $21,000 to a Chinese computer hacking website for unauthorized access to strangers' email accounts, which he searched out of curiosity, was sentenced today to home detention and community service.
John Ross Jesensky, 30, pleaded guilty in February to one misdemeanor count of unauthorized computer access, a charge which carries a potential one-year prison sentence.
Jesensky, a freelance pianist and composer, admitted to federal prosecutors that he paid about $21,000 to the China-based website hiretohack.net for passwords to Google accounts belonging to at least 10 people he did not know, court papers show.
There are no allegations Jesensky did anything other than "review" the accounts, according to his plea agreement.
Jesensky's attorney, Debra S. White, told the court that searching the email accounts of others "gave him a sense of power," a need rooted in childhood abuse.
"I deserve to be standing here today," Jesensky told the court, adding that his breach of strangers' Google accounts "is horrendous to me now."
He said he was getting therapy to try to understand why he did what he did.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Ralph Zarefsky sentenced Jesensky to a year's probation, including six months of home detention and 50 hours of community service. The judge also restricted Jesensky's Internet access to his office job and home use with prior authorization.
Zarefsky said he gave Jesenky a probationary sentence rather than prison time, because of various "unique factors," such as the lack of any apparent victims or monetary loss, the defendant's "sincere and prompt cooperation" and the fact that Jesensky entered therapy of his own volition.
"You're getting a good deal," Zarefsky told the defendant. "Despite the fact you made a serious error, you have an opportunity here to live the rest of your life error free."
In a related case, the Ministry of Public Security in China arrested Ying "Brent" Liu last year for operating hiretohack, prosecutors said.
Authorities allege that Liu is responsible for obtaining unauthorized access to roughly 300 email accounts between January 2012 and March 2013.
--City News Service