Man accused of hacking Bush accounts appears in US court

Matthew Barakat - Associated Press

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The Romanian hacker known as Guccifer, who is charged with breaking into computer accounts of the Bush family, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and others, has been brought to the United States to face criminal charges.

Marcel Lazar, 44, of Arad, Romania, made an initial appearance Friday in federal court in Alexandria. He's been charged with wire fraud, cyberstalking, identity theft, unauthorized access to computers and obstruction of justice. The charges carry prison terms ranging from five to 20 years.

Lazar is best known for alleged hacks into accounts held by the Bushes that revealed private family photos and paintings connected to former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

He was indicted in the U.S. in 2014. Romanian officials agreed recently to release Lazar to U.S. authorities so he could be prosecuted.

The indictment does not identify the victims by name but describes "Victim 1" as "a family member of two former U.S. presidents." The Bush family member's hacked AOL account resulted in leaked emails, medical information, photographs, home addresses, and telephone numbers, according to the indictment.

The website The Smoking Gun published some of the hacked photos, including pictures of paintings by George W. Bush, and a photo of George H.W. Bush in the hospital. The Smoking Gun said the hacked account belonged to Dorothy Bush Koch, the daughter of the elder Bush and sister of the younger.

The indictment also identifies "Victim 3," believed to be Powell, and says his Facebook account was hacked, and posts went out under Powell's name stating "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!"

Guccifer also claimed credit for hacking the AOL account of Sidney Blumenthal, a confidant of Hillary Clinton, in March 2013. That subsequent leak of Blumenthal's emails was the first time that outsiders became aware of Clinton's private "clintonemail.com" address, which she used to communicate with Blumenthal. It has now become part of the investigation of whether Clinton mishandled sensitive emails. Blumenthal appears to be described in the indictment as Victim 5, "a journalist and former presidential advisor" whose account was hacked in March 2013.

Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, whose office is prosecuting the case, said in a press release Friday that "Lazar violated the privacy of his victims and thought he could hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. No matter where they are in the world, those who commit crimes against U.S. citizens will be held accountable."

Justice Department officials said Lazar's arrest is one of several recent prosecutions of high-profile cyber criminals. In the Alexandria courthouse, prosecutors have indicted Ardit Ferizi, a national of Kosovo who was arrested in Malaysia and brought to the U.S. for trial for allegedly hacking and providing names and addresses of U.S. servicemembers to the Islamic State.

Dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans, Lazar requested a court-appointed attorney through a Romanian interpreter at his brief initial appearance. He was ordered held pending a detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

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