New York, NY (December 2, 2019)—The record industry has a long history of music piracy, but a 27-year-old man arrested on November 25 in Austin, TX, put a new spin on it, according to the indictment against him and his fellow hackers.
“Christian Erazo and his co-conspirators allegedly hacked the accounts of music producers and management companies in order to steal over 50 gigabytes of content — including some music that had yet to be publicly released — and leaked it on the internet,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement following the arrest. “Not only did this scheme cause the companies, producers, and artists financial harm, Erazo deprived the artists of the ability to release their own exclusive content at their discretion.”
The 27-page indictment against Erazo accuses him and three unnamed co-conspirators, known and unknown, of hacking the social media account of a Los Angeles-based recording artist and music producer. They then impersonated the producer and solicited artists via private messages to send unreleased music to a fake email address they set up.
The victims, none of whom are named, also included the producer’s manager and the New York City-based management company for which the manager worked, which represents “over 20 influential recording artists and producers around the world.” Additional victims listed in the indictment include a Beverly Hills-based management company that represents more than 40 recording artists worldwide, a co-founder of that company, a Canada-based music producer and two L.A.-based music producers represented by the New York management firm, and “an American musician.”
Erazo is accused of hacking the cloud storage accounts belonging to the two management companies and the L.A. artist/producer, and stealing music that had not yet been publicly released from over 20 recording artists. The accused and his co-conspirators are believed to have accessed the New York management company’s cloud account at least 2,300 times. Forensic analysis of Erazo’s computer revealed that he stole at least 850 music files, many previously unreleased, some of which he and his co-conspirators leaked onto public online forums.
The indictment alleges that the L.A. artist/producer and other collaborators suffered substantial financial and reputational harm. The group had reportedly been working on an album for about a year and were forced to scrap it after the theft and leak of their tracks. The group’s previous album grossed roughly $2 million in sales, according to the indictment.
The scheme appears to have begun unraveling in early January 2017 when Erazo and a co-conspirator decided to blame their activities on an unnamed individual. They contacted the L.A. artist/producer’s manager claiming that the individual had unauthorized access to the New York management company’s storage account. They later spoke with an undercover federal law officer posing as a company security official and claimed that the individual was selling unreleased music at $300 per track. “[T]his is the perf[ect] cover up,” Erazo wrote in an online message to his co-conspirator.
Erazo has admitted the crimes, which took place between late 2016 and April 2017, during which time he was a California resident, to law enforcement officials. He is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft.
“Erazo’s conduct is a reminder of the potential destruction hackers can inflict, and the need for all users to practice strong measures against cyber intrusions,” said Berman in his statement.
Download the indictment • https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/press-release/file/1220371/download