The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has taken legal action against a teenage hacker and his accomplices, ordering them to return almost $5.2 million worth of Bitcoin (BTC) and a sports car that was believed to have been stolen from crypto executives in a notorious SIM-swap attacked that occurred four years ago.
In 2019, a federal grand jury indicted Ahmad Wagaafe Hared and his co-conspirator Mathew Gene Ditman for conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, conspiracy to commit access device fraud, extortion, and aggravated identity theft.
Court Orders SIM-Swap Hackers To Return BTC Worth $5.2 Million Stolen From Crypto Executives
According to the indictment, both parties are accused of orchestrating a scheme to obtain cryptocurrencies, personal properties, and funds owned and controlled by executives of various crypto companies.
Ahmed and his co-conspirators allegedly used deception, fraud, and social engineering tactics to trick representatives of cellphone service providers into giving away information about the SIM cards of their victims.
Prosecutors state that Hared, who was 18 at the time, first obtained the personal contact data of cryptocurrency executives and investors who had accounts with mobile service providers in Northern California. He then proceeded to contact the representatives and manipulated them into thinking that he was the genuine owner of the phone numbers.
Ahmed and his team then transferred the target phone numbers to their own mobile devices and executed a SIM-swap attack on the victims’ personal wallets.
SIM swap is one of the most common and vicious ways in which hackers can compromise your personal property. The scheme takes place when scammers contact your mobile carrier service and trick them by using your information to activate a SIM card they possess, giving them complete control over your phone number and full access to personal and financial accounts linked to your number.
U.S. Government Prepared To Confiscate The Stolen Bitcoin And A Sports Car
A federal judge in San Fransisco has issued a preliminary order of forfeiture against the assets acquired by the scammers, giving the U.S. government the legal permission to confiscate 119.8 BTC worth around $5.2 million, 93,420 Stellar (XLM) tokens worth $11,770, and a 2017 BMW i8 sports car with a current market value of around $60,000.
Hared has been ordered by the court to hand over the proceedings from his loot conducted between 2016 and 2019 to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The Justice Department said that Hared was known under the bias “winblo” among his co-conspirators on a web forum called “ogusers[.]com”. The forum acted as a marketplace where users could buy and sell premium items ranging from luxury goods to expensive social media handles.
Hared was arrested from Tuscon, Arizona in January 2019. He initially appeared in a district court but was released under a $100,000 bail bond. A year later, the scammer agreed to a plea deal with the U.S. government in exchange for leniency.
Meanwhile, his partner in crime, Ditman, was arrested in Las Vegas the same month and was released on bond.
Federal prosecutors have not released the names of the crypto executives who fell prey to the SIM swap scheme. But the events surrounding the case took place in the Silicon Valley region, which is home to numerous cryptocurrency companies, including Coinbase – one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges.