Three people have been charged with carrying out the hacking attack on Twitter in mid-July in which the accounts of prominent people were taken over.
State authorities in Florida say 17-year-old Graham Ivan Clark “was the mastermind” of the attack. He now faces 30 state felony charges, and federal charges may also be filed.
Federal authorities also announced that Mason Sheppard, of Bognor Regis in the United Kingdom, was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the intentional access of a protected computer.
Nima Fazeli of Orlando was charged by federal authorities with aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer.
“This ‘Bit-Con’ was designed to steal money from regular Americans from all over the country, including here in Florida. This massive fraud was orchestrated right here in our backyard, and we will not stand for that,” said Andrew Warren, Hillsborough state attorney.
Reached by phone Friday, Clark’s mother, Emiliya Clark, said her son was innocent.
“I believe he didn’t do it. I’ve spoken to him every day,” she said. “I’m devastated.”
Clark was arrested Friday morning following an intensive investigation by the FBI, IRS, Secret Service and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“This defendant lives here in Tampa, he committed the crime here, and he’ll be prosecuted here,” Warren said. Florida law allows minors to be charged as adults in financial fraud cases.
The accounts targeted in the attack included those belonging to Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Kanye West, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and entrepreneur Elon Musk.
Messages coming from their accounts promised the recipients that their money would be doubled if they sent an amount in Bitcoin to a specific place. Several hundred people appeared to have responded, sending in tens of thousands of dollars.
“There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson. “Today’s charging announcement demonstrates that the elation of nefarious hacking into a secure environment for fun or profit will be short-lived.”
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.”
Andrew Blankstein contributed.