A U.S. State Department employee has been arrested and charged with hacking into the email accounts of young women and stealing compromising photos and blackmailing them with demands they take compromising videos of other women or he would share the pictures online.
According to federal investigators, the employee, Michael C. Ford, used government computers at the U.S. Embassy in London to cyber-stalk the women using a Google account identifying himself as a “talent scout”. Ford, a married father, is an American who has worked for the embassy in London since 2009.
"The individual named in this case was a locally hired administrative support employee who was not a member of the Foreign Service," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters on Thursday. "As of May 18th, the individual is no longer working at the embassy."
In one instance, Ford told an unidentified woman who complained of his hacking that he was innocent and would send out photos of her if she went to police, according to a criminal affidavit. Ford demanded the woman shoot videos of "sexy girls" changing in dressing rooms at pools, gyms and clothing stores and then give the videos to him.
“I want you to video girls in the changing room (of her gym). If you don't, I send your details and pictures to everyone. What do you say? Looks like you've made up your mind. Get ready for my email and post to go out tomorrow morning. Enjoy!"
He told the woman that if she didn't comply he would post the sexually explicit photos of her along with her actual name and address online. He said he would also send the photos to her associates who he named along with their addresses and a phone number as proof of his ability to track down people she knew.
In all, Department of State Diplomatic Security Service specialists found 250 email addresses on his computer — many of them belonging to women at colleges and universities.
“This leads me to believe that Ford may be targeting college-aged women throughout the U.S.,” Eric Kasik, a special agent with the Department of State said in the criminal affidavit.
Investigators also found that Ford has a criminal arrest record for "peeping tom" –like offenses.
Ford was scheduled to appear in federal court for a bond hearing in Atlanta on Thursday.