A man arrested on suspicion that he had hacked into the computer of pop star Madonna and stole unpublished songs to sell on the Internet was a contestant on the Israeli TV singing competition “Kochav Nolad,” police revealed Thursday.
Adi Lederman, a 39-year-old Tel Aviv resident, was released to 10-day house arrest, after being taken into custody Wednesday following an undercover investigation by the cyber-crime unit of the Lahav 433 special investigations department of the police.
Police are looking into other leads and may bring in additional suspects for questioning, Channel 2 reported.
Lederman participated in the talent show three years ago, though he didn’t make it past the auditions stage, after the underwhelmed judges called his performance “painful.”
The alleged cyber offender presented himself on the show as a 28-year-old, though police claim he was born in 1976, meaning he was actually 36 at the time.
“The investigation is in its very early stages,” the suspect’s court-appointed attorney told Channel 2. “The suspect denies all charges. As far as we know, there is no evidence directly connecting him to the crimes. We believe the police will soon realize they apprehended the wrong man.”
Madonna took to Facebook to express her appreciation of joint American-Israeli police efforts that led to Lederman’s arrest. “I am profoundly grateful to the FBI, the Israeli Police investigators and anyone else who helped lead to the arrest of this hacker,” she wrote.
The singer also thanked her fans, who “provided us with pertinent information and continue to do so regarding leaks of my music.”
“Like any citizen, I have the right to privacy. This invasion into my life — creatively, professionally, and personally remains a deeply devastating and hurtful experience, as it must be for all artists who are victims of this type of crime.”
"I am profoundly grateful to the FBI, the Israeli Police investigators and anyone else who helped lead to the arrest of…
Police launched the probe when Madonna’s legal representative lodged a complaint after new, unpublished material from the singer was leaked to the Internet a few months ago.
The investigation was carried out in close coordination with the FBI and revealed that the suspect may have hacked into other celebrities’ computers.
According to police, the suspect took the songs and then tried to trade them online.
Police confiscated computers and media material from the suspect’s home in Tel Aviv.
The hacking and subsequent leak apparently prompted a surprise preview of Madonna’s new album in December 2014 when the artist released six songs on iTunes and various streaming services.
The songs were released because several in-progress demos were leaked earlier that week, publicist Liz Rosenberg said at the time.
Madonna, who has given a total of four concerts in Israel in 1993, 2009, and 2013, said in a statement that she had wanted to wait until a different holiday season.
“I was hoping to release my new single ‘Living For Love’ on Valentine’s Day with the rest of the album coming in the spring,” she said. “I would prefer my fans to hear completed versions of some of the songs instead of the incomplete tracks that are circulating. Please consider these six songs as an early Christmas gift.”
Asked about her recording security, she said it already had been quite tight, so the leak came as a surprise.
“We don’t put things up on servers anymore. Everything we work on, if we work on computers, we’re not on WiFi, we’re not on the Internet, we don’t work in a way where anybody can access the information,” she said.
“Hard drives of music are hand-carried to people. We don’t leave music laying around.”
AP, AFP and Stuart Winer contributed to this report.