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Charges Filed Against Three People, Including Underage 'Mastermind' Behind Twitter Bitcoin Scam

© Photo : PIxabayCyber crime
Cyber crime - Sputnik International
Earlier this month, Twitter users were subjected to a massive hacking attack involving over one hundred accounts, including those belonging to high-profile figures. Profiles of dozens of prominent people and companies were hijacked to promote a scam bitcoin address which pledged to double any payments sent to it.

Three people have been charged for their alleged role in the recent Twitter bitcoin hack, according a statement made by the US Department of Justice. Earlier, the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office announced that a 17-year-old teenager, Graham Clark, had been accused of being behind the hacking attack.

“There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence,” said US Attorney Anderson. “Today’s charging announcement demonstrates that the elation of nefarious hacking into a secure environment for fun or profit will be short-lived. Criminal conduct over the Internet may feel stealthy to the people who perpetrate it, but there is nothing stealthy about it. In particular, I want to say to would-be offenders, break the law, and we will find you.”

In a separate statement, the FBI announced that two individuals had been taken into custody for their alleged roles in the Twitter attack.

"As of today, the FBI and our partners have taken two individuals into custody," said San Francisco-based FBI assistant special agent in charge, Sanjay Virmani, in a statement. "They are facing either federal or state criminal charges, including computer intrusion, fraud, money laundering, wire fraud, and identity theft."

According to the Justice Department, a UK resident, Mason Sheppard, aka “Chaewon,” 19, was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and intentional access of a protected computer. Another person charged is Nima Fazeli, aka “Rolex,” 22, of Orlando, Florida, who was accused of aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer.

The name of the third defendant was not disclosed by the feds to "protect the identity of the juvenile", despite the fact that in its press-release, the Florida-based Hillsborough State Attorney Office reveal the name of the 17-year-old defendant.

According to an earlier Hillsborough State Attorney Office press release, State Attorney Andrew Warren filed 30 felony charges against Graham Clark in connection with the 15 July Twitter hack. The charges include one count of organized fraud, 17 counts of communications fraud, one count of fraudulent use of personal information with over $100,000 or 30 or more victims, and 10 counts of fraudulent use of personal information.

“These crimes were perpetrated using the names of famous people and celebrities, but they’re not the primary victims here. This ‘Bit-Con’ was designed to steal money from regular Americans from all over the country, including here in Florida. This massive fraud was orchestrated right here in our backyard, and we will not stand for that,” read Warren's statement.

The statement added that "scamming people out of their hard-earned money is always wrong", promising that the defendants "will be held accountable". The FBI and the Department of Justice will work together on what has become, according to reports, a high-profile case. 

Clark will be prosecuted by the State Attorney office, as Florida law allows minors to be charged as adults in financial fraud cases, when appropriate. 

“This defendant lives here in Tampa, he committed the crime here, and he’ll be prosecuted here,” Warren said.

Earlier, charges were reported by WFLA TV.

Twitter issued a statement thanking law enforcement for the investigation.

​Twitter saw the massive hacking attack on 15 July, with hundreds of accounts affected, including blue-ticked ones belonging to Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Kanye West, Jeff Bezos, Joe Biden, Barack Obama and multiple others. Pledging to double all payments sent to a bitcoin address posted in the hijacked accounts, the scammers scooped up over $100,000. 

The FBI said that the accounts were compromised "to perpetuate cryptocurrency fraud", while Twitter described the hack as "coordinated social engineering attack".

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