Suspect in scheme to breach major Twitter accounts is now charged with hacking crypto executives

Written by AJ Vicens

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday unsealed an indictment against a 22-year-old British man accused of stealing $784,000 in cryptocurrency from a Manhattan-based holding company.

U.S. attorneys in the Southern District of New York say Joseph James O’Connor and his associates SIM-swapped three executives between March and May in 2019 at a company that maintained cryptocurrency wallet infrastructure for various international exchanges. SIM-swapping occurs when an attacker takes control of a victim’s phone number by linking the number to a device controlled by the attacker.

CyberScoop could not immediately locate an attorney for O’Connor.

The operation netted the group various amounts of litecoin, ethereum, and bitcoin totaling roughly $784,000. The indictment, originally filed on Aug. 25, charges O’Connor with conspiracy to commit computer hacking, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

O’Connor — also known as “PlugWalkJoe” — was arrested in Spain in July after being accused by the U.S. government of hacking more than 100 Twitter and TikTok accounts in July 2020 belonging to celebrities and prominent figures, including former President Barack Obama, Kanye West, and Elon Musk. Once they had control of the accounts, O’Connor and his associates allegedly used that access as part of a scam to seek bitcoin donation from the public. O’Connor was also accused of extortion and cyber stalking in that case.

O’Connor denied involvement in the Twitter account theft in a 2020 interview with The New York Times. “I don’t care. They can come arrest me. I would laugh at them. I haven’t done anything.”

Prosecutors said they’re seeking O’Connor’s extradition from Spain to face the charges in the U.S for both cases.




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