Court Battles

UK citizen charged in alleged cryptocurrency theft scheme

Visual representation of bitcoin cryptocurrency
Getty Images
A U.K. citizen who was allegedly involved in hacking the Twitter accounts of prominent U.S. figures was charged with conspiracy to commit computer hacking and other crimes related to the theft of over $780,000 in cryptocurrency.
 
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York unsealed the indictment for Joseph James O’Connor on Wednesday, according to a statement from the Justice Department.
 
Between March and May 2019, O’Connor, known as “PlugwalkJoe,” and his co-conspirators stole $784,000 in cryptocurrency from a Manhattan cryptocurrency firm using a “SIM swap attack” on three of the company’s executives, the prosecutors said.
 
During this type of attack, victims’ cell phone numbers can be controlled externally after they are linked to subscriber identity module cards, or SIM cards.
 
The attack allowed O’Connor to gain access to the company’s computer systems and access various types of cryptocurrency including bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin, the DOJ said. O’Connor was then able to steal the cryptocurrency and launder it.
 
The 22-year-old will face charges including conspiracy to commit computer hacking, which carries a maximum possible sentence of five years, as well as conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, each of which carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years.
 
He was also charged with aggravated identity theft, which has a mandatory sentence of two years in prison.
 
The U.S. government will pursue O’Connor’s extradition from Spain, where he was previously arrested on other U.S. federal charges, the statement added. 
 
Those charges related to a hack that compromised the Twitter accounts of several U.S. politicians, including President Biden, former President Obama, Kim Kardashian, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Kayne West and other prominent figures, Reuters reported.
Tags Barack Obama Bitcoin Computer hacking Cryptocurrency Jeff Bezos Joe Biden Kim Kardashian United Kingdom

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more

Video

See all Video