A North Carolina teacher impersonated Kenny Chesney and hacked into the email accounts of celebrities, journalists, executives, and athletes to steal naked pictures from dozens of victims, according to an affidavit unsealed Monday.
Edward Raff, a 29-year-old 5th grade math teacher in Greenville, North Carolina, allegedly used a paid subscription to a massive database of leaked personal information to hack or attempt to access the Google and iCloud accounts of between 60 and 80 notable figures and swipe sexual photos from victims, according to an affidavit filed in a North Carolina federal court.No charges have been filed.
That database, found on the website weleakinfo.com, was seized by the FBI in January 2020. The website sold subscriptions to leaked and stolen information from over 10,000 data breaches, information the feds described as amounting to 12 billion indexed records, according to the search warrant.
The 29-year-old compiled the recordsemail addresses, usernames, and passwordsin an over 400-page draft email, then used the information to gain entry to his victims accounts, the FBI alleged. The dossier includes the personal information of his unnamed celebrity victims and everyday people alike. Google tipped off the Bureau to the alleged attacks, the affidavit reads.
The primary goal of Raffs ruses appears to be sexual predation, according to the affidavit. He would use his illegal account access to steal sexual selfies from womennaked photos, lingerie photos, photos of oral sex, photos of masturbationby forwarding the material to his own email accounts, the affidavit states. At one point, he allegedly used stolen credentials and an iPhone hacking tool to download the entire message history between two people, totalling more than 55,000 messages.
Raff has been accused of employing a range of methods in pursuit of his victims. He created fake accounts that mimicked those of the people he preyed on, sometimes using a difference in one letter or a common misspelling, to then compromise their actual accounts, authorities said.
He also claimed to be the country singer Kenny Chesney to solicit naked photos from women, at one point going by Bobby Crouton, one of Chesneys former aliases, in a ruse that required no stolen information, the papers state.
Despite the sweeping nature of the alleged theft, Raff appears to have had little more knowledge of hacking than an average user with a credit card and access to search engines. He purchased a subscription to www.iphonebackupextractor.com to download copies of the information on his victims smartphones but complained to its customer service department that he couldnt search the stolen backups, the feds say.
According to the affidavit, his search history included queries like how to decipher hash, decipher hashed password, buy bitcoin with prepaid card, and sms verification online.
In a phone call with The Daily Beast, Raff denied the allegations and claimed he himself was the victim of identity theft.
Someone had my name and address, made a PayPal, and subscribed to this website. Thats why [the FBI] suspected that it could be me. They came to my house, took every device I own, and returned it two weeks later, he said.
The FBI returned his devices on March 4 after seizing and searching them, Raff said. He couldnt say who might want to impersonate him in such a wide-ranging scheme.
It couldve been anyone who got my information from an envelope or anybody who ever had my name and address, he said.
The U.S. Attorneys Office in the Eastern District of North Carolina, which filed the search warrants, stated it cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. The FBI, Raff, and Wahl Coates Elementary where Raff taught, did not respond to a request for comment.
The FBI executed at least four search warrants related to the investigation, including one at Wahl Coates Elementary school. Law enforcement seized three computers, two iPads, an iPhone, a GoPro, and a school hard drive used by Raff.