"predatory, manipulative and motivated by sexual desires"
Former civil servant, Akash Sondhi, from Chafford Hundred in Essex, who hacked into the computer accounts of over 550 women with the aim to exploit them for his own sexual gratification has been sentenced to prison for 11 years.
During 27-year-old Sondhi’s hearing at Basildon Crown Court on January 5, 2021, Sondhi admitted to 65 offences.
Sondhi’s offences were 42 counts of using a computer to enable unauthorised access of data, 21 counts of blackmail, and two counts of voyeurism which related to him secretly filming a woman getting undressed.
During the hearing, Judge Samantha Cohen stated that the report into Sondhi’s offending said it was “predatory, manipulative and motivated by sexual desires”.
Sondhi who previously worked at the Home Office, Ministry of Justice, and Cabinet Office as a Commercial Manager, used Snapchat as the main social media platform along with others to target his victims.
He hacked into the accounts of women in Essex and globally from December 26, 2016, up until March 17, 2020, when he was arrested for his cybercrimes and cyber voyeurism.
The Essex Police Cyber Crime Unit officers raided his premises on March 19, 2020, after several victims had reported him.
Some of his victims were located as far as Australia, Romania and Hong Kong and some were under the age of 18, which demonstrated the “astonishing” amount of reach he had during his offending.
Sondhi posed as the friends of hundreds of women aged between 16 and 25 to get access to their social media accounts.
As part of his sordid campaign inflicted on the 573 women he targeted, once gaining unauthorised access to some of their accounts, he went on to control his victims by blackmailing and threatening them.
He told them that if they did not send him nude images of themselves, he would post intimate images he was in possession of from their accounts to their family and friends.
With the fear of this happening, some of the women agreed to do as he told them. In at least six of the cases, it was revealed that he carried out these threats.
It was revealed that a number of Sondhi’s victims experienced serious emotional and psychological harm after going through the traumatic experience and one victim sadly tried to commit suicide.
According to the Basildon Canvey Southen Echo, one of the victims whom Sondhi had tormented, shared her personal statement in court.
The woman stated:
“I felt hopeless at work.
“I attempted to take my own life due to the level of worthlessness.
“It has had a massive impact on my friendships.”
Judge Samantha Cohen had to assure the woman that she was not to blame and it was not her fault because she had tremendous guilt and felt responsible for some of the other victims for having Sondhi steal their data.
During the judgment for his despicable crimes on these women, Judge Cohen told Sondhi:
“You were a source of pride to your family, but now you are a source of shame.
“The impact has been far more serious for the women you blackmailed.
“A number of them were aged 16 to 18.
“There was an extreme level of anxiety.
“You wreaked havoc for over two years.”
Senior Crown Prosecutor, Joseph Stickings, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said:
“Akash Sondhi is an extremely manipulative man who inflicted emotional and psychological damage on young women while also getting gratification from their images and videos.
“Following a diligent and thorough investigation conducted by the Essex Police Cyber Crime Unit the CPS was able to build a comprehensive case of 65 counts reflecting the high level of his offending.
“I would like to thank all of the women who bravely came forward to tell of their traumatic experiences at the hands of Akash Sondhi.
“Their accounts provided strong evidence and the CPS were able to create such a compelling prosecution case that Akash Sondhi pleaded guilty to all counts.”
Detective Sergeant Ian Collins, from the Essex Police Cyber Crime Unit, said:
“This is an excellent result for the 573 victims in this case and the Essex Cyber Team.
“The sentence Akash Sondhi has received today reflects how much distress he caused to his victims.
“Since his remand and now this sentence we have managed to stop this vile offender form targeting more victims.
“This is a wakeup call for anyone committing this type of crime we will catch you and bring you to justice, and you can go to prison for the distress caused to the victims.
“I urge anyone using social media not to store intimate images of themselves to secure and protect your data and make sure you don’t become a victim.
“Don’t share passwords even if you think it’s a trusted friend that asks you for them it might not be, its chat in a text”.
In addition to his 11-year prison sentence, Sondhi has a five-year Serious Crime Prevention Order placed against him and has been added to the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years.