Ex-U.S. State Department worker gets nearly 5 years for 'sextortion'

Sent most emails from work computer

(Reuters) — A former U.S. State Department employee was sentenced on Monday to 4-3/4 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges he sent threatening emails to sexually extort dozens of young women, mainly from his computer at the U.S. embassy in London.

Michael Ford, 36, of Atlanta, had pleaded guilty on Dec. 9 to nine counts of cyber stalking, seven counts of computer hacking to extort and one count of wire fraud for what federal prosecutors called an "international sextortion campaign."

U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross in Atlanta, who imposed the sentence, also ordered Ford to serve three years of supervised release after his prison term ends.

The sentence was confirmed by a spokesman for U.S. Attorney John Horn in Atlanta.

Federal prosecutors said Ford hacked into the accounts of hundreds of young women, and threatened to release thousands of sexually explicit photos he stole unless his victims agreed to his demands, including that they send him videos of other women undressing in changing rooms at pools, gyms and clothing stores.

They said Ford's scheme ran from January 2013 to May 2015, and targeted members of college sororities and aspiring models.

Prosecutors had sought an eight-year prison term, while defense lawyers sought a roughly four-year term.

The sentence "recognizes the seriousness of Mr. Ford's conduct, while at the same time acknowledging that he fully accepted responsibility for his actions and assisted the government in every way possible throughout his case," Ford's lawyer Benjamin Black Alper said.

"Mr. Ford deeply regrets his actions and looks forward to completing his sentence and returning to his family," he added.

The case is U.S. v. Ford, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia, No. 15-cr-00319.

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