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Two California men get prison terms in pro poker 'sextortion' scheme

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two California men who pleaded guilty to hacking into the email account of a professional poker player and trying to extort him with naked pictures found there have been sentenced to prison terms, federal prosecutors said on Monday.

Prosecutors say Tyler Schrier, 23, and Keith James Hudson, 39, took part in a so-called "sextortion" scheme targeting poker pro Joe Sebok in the fall of 2010, threatening to post the pictures and intimate emails online if he and other victims did not pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Sebok said during a sentencing hearing for the two men in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles that he and the other victims had seen their lives "altered and shattered in irreparable ways" by the crime, which damaged his ability to earn a living as a professional poker player.

"In short, I was no longer able to maintain my then-current level of participation in the poker industry, representing the brands that I had been previously, as well as greatly destroying my ability to do so with new companies moving forward," Sebok said, according to U.S. Attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek.

"Without belaboring the point too much, it was a nightmare, and one that I was forced to live through with millions of people watching," Sebok said, according to Mrozek.

The other victims of the scheme were identified in court documents only by their initials. None of the victims made the payments to the extortionists, prosecutors said.

Schrier was sentenced to 42 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy, extortion and unauthorized access to a protected computer. He had faced a maximum sentence of 17 years in prison if convicted at trial.

Hudson was sentenced to two years in prison following his guilty plea to unauthorized access to a protected computer for purposes of financial gain. Hudson could have been sentenced to five years behind bars if found guilty at trial.

A third defendant, 22-year-old Ryder Finney, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with the scheme and will be sentenced later this year in federal court in Philadelphia. He faces a maximum of five years in prison.

According to charging documents, Hudson obtained emails and intimate photographs from Sebok's account and sent them to Schrier, who threatened to post the materials online unless he was provided with money or credits in online poker accounts.

Prosecutors said that prior to the Sebok case, Schrier had extorted more than $26,000 from professional poker players in exchange for agreeing not to reveal information regarding their online poker activities.

In 2012, while free on bond in the Sebok case, Schrier illegally accessed two email accounts to steal some $4,000 from online poker accounts, prosecutors said.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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