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Feds charge three in Bitcoin scam involving high-powered Twitter accounts

Federal prosecutors have charged three people in connection with a high-profile hack of famous Twitter accounts including those of Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Kanye West, authorities said Friday.

The defendants allegedly hacked into 130 Twitter accounts on July 15 and scammed users into handing over Bitcoin with the false promise that their deposits would be doubled, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The alleged hackers have been identified as Mason Sheppard, 19, of the United Kingdom, Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, Florida, and an unnamed defendant who is reportedly the mastermind of the hack.

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California David Anderson warned would-be hackers to reconsider their actions.

“Criminal conduct over the Internet may feel stealthy to the people who perpetrate it, but there is nothing stealthy about it,” Anderson said. “In particular, I want to say to would-be offenders, break the law, and we will find you.”

In this case, the hackers allegedly stole the Bitcoins deposited into the scam account and recieved more than 400 transfers totalling about 12.86 Bitcoin, or more than $100,000.

Using the compromised Twitter account which also included cryptocurrency exchanges like Kucoin, Coinbase, Gemini, the hackers allegedly posted messages directing victims to send cryptocurrency to Bitcoin addresses. They also allegedly posted tweets that led victims to the website cryptoforhealth.com, which also provided a Bitcoin address, according to the criminal complaint.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Shepard is charged with conspiracies to commit wire fraud, money laundering and computer intrusion, while Fazeli is facing one count of computer intrusion. And third defendant has been charged with 30 felonies, according to the Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren of Florida.

“Our identities and reputations are sacred,” Caroline O’Brien Buster, special agent in charge at the U.S. Secret Service Orlando Field Office, said in a statement. “We will continue to aggressively defend and protect individuals, companies, and other entities from new-age cyber-fraud, especially those who scheme to hack, defraud and wreak havoc on U.S. citizens across the country.”

nchan@sfexaminer.com

Nicholas Chan

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