TAMPA (CBSMiami) — A Florida man, a Florida teen and a British man are all facing charges for scamming people across America, and perpetrating the “Bit-Con” hack of prominent Twitter accounts including Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Elon Musk.
Graham Clark, 17, was arrested Friday in Tampa, where the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office will prosecute him as an adult.
Clark, said to be the mastermind, faces 30 felony charges, according to a news release.
Meanwhile, Mason Sheppard, aka “Chaewon,” 19, of Bognor Regis, U.K., and Nima Fazeli, aka “Rolex,” 22, of Orlando, were charged in California federal court.
“These crimes were perpetrated using the names of famous people and celebrities, but they’re not the primary victims here. 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,” Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said.
The investigation revealed the scheme involved hacking the Twitter account of prominent politicians, celebrities and technology moguls to scam people around the world out of Bitcoin,
Authorities said he posted messages in their names directing victims to send Bitcoin to accounts associated with Clark, and received more than $100,000 in Bitcoin in just one day. As a cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is difficult to track and recover if stolen in a scam.
Some of the bogus tweets sent out on July 25 came from the accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and numerous tech billionaires including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Tesla’s Elon Musk. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked.
The tweets offered to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous Bitcoin address.
“I want to congratulate our federal law enforcement partners—the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, the FBI, the IRS, and the Secret Service—as well as the Florida Department of Law enforcement. They worked quickly to investigate and identify the perpetrator of a sophisticated and extensive fraud,” State Attorney Warren said.
“This defendant lives here in Tampa, he committed the crime here, and he’ll be prosecuted here,” Warren added. The Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office is prosecuting Clark because Florida law allows minors to be charged as adults in financial fraud cases such as this when appropriate. The FBI and Department of Justice will continue to partner with the office throughout the prosecution.”
“Working together, we will hold this defendant accountable,” Warren said. “Scamming people out of their hard-earned money is always wrong. Whether you’re taking advantage of someone in person or on the internet, trying to steal their cash or their cryptocurrency—it’s fraud, it’s illegal, and you won’t get away with it.”
Clark is charged with organized fraud, communications fraud, fraudulent use of personal information and access to computer or electronic device without authority.
Sheppard is charged conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the intentional access of a protected computer.
Fazeli is charged with aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer.