Cybersecurity

Members of hacking group sentenced for stealing millions in cryptocurrency

The Justice Department on Tuesday announced the sentencing of the last member of an international hacking group indicted for allegedly stealing millions in cryptocurrency as part of a “SIM hijacking” effort.

Missouri-based Garrett Endicott, the sixth and final member of a hacking group known as “The Community,” was sentenced Monday to 10 months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of more than $120,000 for his part in the cryptocurrency scheme.

The scheme, which members of The Community were indicted in connection with in 2019, involved the hackers using “SIM hijacking” to take control of the victim’s phone number and rerouting calls and texts to their own devices. This then enabled the group members to individually steal between $50,000 and $9 million in total from victims across the United States through gaining access to email and cryptocurrency accounts on the victims’ phones. 

Individual victims of the hijacking effort lost between $2,000 and $5 million. 

“The actions of these defendants resulted in the loss of millions of dollars to the victims, some of whom lost their entire retirement savings,” acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Saima Mohsinsaid in a statement Tuesday. “This case should serve as a reminder to all of us to protect our personal and financial information from those who seek to steal it.”

Endicott was given a lighter sentence than other members of The Community who had already stood trial, with Endicott and three others being sentenced in the Eastern District of Michigan.

Florida resident Ricky Handschumacher was sentenced to four years in prison and fined more than $7.6 million; Iowa resident Colton Jurisic is serving 42 months in prison and was ordered to pay more than $9.5 million; and South Carolina resident Reyad Gafar Abbas was sentenced to two years in prison and fined more than $310,000. 

Irish citizen Conor Freedman was previously sentenced to three years in prison by an Irish court, while Connecticut resident Ryan Stevenson was sentenced to probation, with both ordered to pay some form of restitution. 

“The illegal activities of The Community were thwarted as the result of a complex international cryptocurrency and identity theft investigation,” acting Special Agent in Charge James Harris of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Detroit said in a statement Tuesday. 

“As criminal organizations commonly use web-based schemes to further their illicit activities, this demonstrates how vulnerable our personal information can be, and the damage that can ensue when our information falls into the wrong hands,” Harris said. 

Cryptocurrency schemes have increased as the use of bitcoin has become more popular. Google in October announced that it had disrupted a scheme by Russian-speaking hackers to target YouTube users in a cryptocurrency scam effort, while cryptocurrency virtual exchanges have been the target of recent sanctions by the Treasury Department due to their use by hackers to facilitate ransomware attack victim payments.

Tags Cryptocurrencies hijacking Justice Department

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