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California man agrees to plead guilty to extortion of Miss Teen USA

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A 19-year-old California man has agreed to plead guilty to charges he hacked into the webcams of Miss Teen USA and other young women to take nude pictures in an extortion scheme, court papers revealed on Thursday.

Jared Abrahams agreed to plead guilty to charges of unauthorized access of protected computers and extortion linked to the case, the documents said.

Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf, also 19, came forward to media organizations in September identifying herself as one of the targets of the hacking, which ensnared at least 12 young women between 2012 and June 2013. Wolf told NBC's "Today" program she had gone to high school with Abrahams in the Southern California city of Temecula.

The women, who were only identified by initials, were in their late teens or early 20s and one lived in Ireland and another was in Canada, a statement of fact in the plea agreement said.

Abrahams, who lived in Riverside County at the time, would gain access to the Facebook and other social media accounts of the women and remotely take pictures of them by accessing their webcams, the plea agreement said. Many of the photos he took were of them nude, the document said.

He would then threaten to post the pictures on the women's social media pages unless they sent him more naked photos or videos or spoke to him by video chat on Skype and did what he demanded for five minutes, the court papers said.

Abrahams signed the plea agreement with federal prosecutors on October 22 and, amid media reports of the deal, a representative for the U.S. Attorney's Office on Thursday sent out an electronic copy of the document.

Abrahams faces a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison and a fine of $1 million, but in exchange for a guilty plea the U.S. Attorney's Office agreed to ask a judge to sentence him to between 27 and 33 months behind bars.

He is expected to formally enter his plea at a court hearing within the first two weeks of November. Alan Eisner, an attorney for Abrahams, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

In September, Eisner said his client and his family want to "accept the responsibility" and "apologize to the victims, not only the girls, but their families."

Abrahams until recently attended college and is on the autism spectrum, which "affects his ability to engage in reciprocal communications," Eisner said at the time.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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