Crime Twitter teen makes first court appearance in Florida
Lone Florida Teen Charged in the Single Worst Hack in Twitter's History
Earlier this month a number of Twitter accounts belonging to prominent, highly-followed individuals like Elon Musk, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos were compromised, seemingly to defraud strangers out of bitcoin. Unfettered access to potentially sensitive information contained therein generated speculation: Was the cryptocurrency gambit a front to cover up blackmail attempts or nation state-level hacking? © Photo: Leon Neal (Getty Images) Nope: It was literally just some kid in Florida who made (and has now presumably lost, or at least lost ready access to) around $180,000 in bitcoin for his troubles, state authorities say.
TAMPA, Fla. — The teen accused of hacking the Twitter accounts of celebrities and major companies last month in order to trick people into sending him Bitcoin appeared in a Tampa courtroom on Saturday.
Graham Ivan Clark, 17, appeared in a small courtroom inside the Hillsborough County Courthouse Annex building via videoconference from the jail, where he is being held without bail. He was arrested Friday at his home in Greater Northdale.
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Prosecutors sought to keep Clark held without bail, arguing that any money he put up for bail would likely be money he accrued through illegal means. Clark’s defense attorney denied that.
A judge decided to hear arguments on the matter at the end of her first appearance docket.
Authorities called him the “mastermind” of an attack that reaped him more than $100,000 worth of the hard-to-track cryptocurrency. Others were also charged Friday: 22-year-old Nima Fazeli of Orlando and 19-year-old Mason Sheppard of the United Kingdom, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in California.
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The teen kept his hands in the air as Santos placed his hand over his pants pocket to imply that he might have a weapon.Prosecutors say that Luis Santos, 54, drove his car alongside a boy who was riding his bike in the early morning on June 8. Santos recorded the encounter with a cellphone, asking “You work here? You live here?” Santos then got out of the car and escalated the situation for no apparent reason.
Clark faces state charges and will be tried in Hillsborough County because he is a juvenile, federal authorities said. The other two men face federal charges in the Northern District of California. It’s easier to prosecute minors as adults for financial crimes under state law than federal law, prosecutors said.
Clark’s scheme was to steal the identities of prominent people, then post messages in their names directing victims to send Bitcoin to accounts he owned. The accounts received more than 400 transfers and he reaped more than $100,000 in Bitcoin in just one day, the state attorney’s office said Friday.
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The hacking took place on July 15. At the time, Twitter said it was a “coordinated” attack targeting its employees “with access to internal systems and tools.
Sheppard, who used the hacking alias “Chaewon,” faces charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the intentional access of a protected computer. Fazeli, or known under the alias “Rolex,” faces charges of aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer.
Clark gained access to Twitter accounts and to the social media platform’s internal controls by compromising a Twitter employee, Warren said. Clark then sold access to those accounts and used the identities of prominent people to solicit money in the form of bitcoin, promising in return he would send back twice as much. He collected the bitcoin and never gave back the money he received.
Some of the celebrities who authorities say were hacked by Clark included Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Jeff Bezos, Mike Bloomberg, Warren Buffet, Kim Kardashian, Wiz Khalifa, Floyd Mayweather, Elon Musk and Kanye West.
A handful of companies had their accounts hacked, too, including Apple and Uber. The hackers allegedly compromised about 130 Twitter accounts and scammed others who sent money.
Clark faces 30 charges, including 17 counts of felony communications fraud, 10 counts of identity theft and one count each of aggravated identity theft and hacking and unlawful access to a computer in furtherance of a scheme to defraud.
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