A UK man previously charged in the United States with involvement in the hacking of politicians’ and celebrities’ Twitter accounts was charged on Wednesday over a separate scheme resulting in the theft of US$784,000 (A$1 million) of cryptocurrency.
US prosecutors in Manhattan said Joseph James O’Connor, 22, and his accomplices stole bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin after gaining control of victims’ cellphone numbers by linking them to subscriber identity module cards, or SIM cards.
O’Connor, also known as PlugwalkJoe, and his accomplices conducted so-called SIM swap attacks targeting three executives of a Manhattan cryptocurrency company, stole cryptocurrency from two clients, and laundered what they stole, prosecutors said.
A lawyer for O’Connor could not immediately be identified. Prosecutors said the scheme ran from March to May 2019.
O’Connor has been awaiting possible extradition from Spain following his July 21 arrest concerning a July 2020 hacking that compromised dozens of Twitter accounts and allegedly netted more than US$118,000 of bitcoin.
The accounts included those of current US President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama, Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Tesla’s Elon Musk, reality TV star Kim Kardashian and Ye, the rapper once known as Kanye West.
Graham Ivan Clark, the accused teenage mastermind of the Twitter hacking, pleaded guilty in March in a Florida state court and agreed to serve three years in a juvenile prison.
Wednesday’s charges against O’Connor include conspiracies to commit wire fraud and money laundering, each carrying a maximum 20-year prison term, as well as aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit computer hacking.