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UK citizen pleads guilty to cybercrime offenses leading to theft of $794,000 digital assets

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has secured the extradition of a U.K. citizen for crimes related to digital currency theft and unlawful hacking.

The DOJ made the announcement via a press release on May 9, stating that it had completed the extradition process of Joseph O’Connor from Spain. According to the announcement, O’Connor arrived in the U.S. on April 26 and pleaded guilty to two sets of charges upon his arraignment.

Prosecutors are charging O’Connor for his role in a SIM swap attack that led to the loss of $794,000 in digital assets from a digital currency service provider in New York. Court documents reveal that O’Connor faces fresh charges concerning his illegal hacking of the Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok accounts of several victims.

In 2019, O’Connor and his accomplices carried out a SIM swap attack on one of the executives of the unnamed company that gave them access to the company accounts. The accused used his unfettered access to siphon nearly $800,000 worth of digital currencies, laundering the funds through multiple layers of transactions.

Following the success of the SIM swap attack, O’Connor participated in a conspiracy to illegally gain access to certain accounts maintained by Twitter. Armed with access to unauthorized tools, O’Connor’s syndicate began transferring control of certain accounts to other users, selling such unauthorized access for up to $10,000.

“O’Connor has left an impressive trail of destruction in the wake of his wave of criminality,” U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey said. “This case serves as a warning that the reach of the law is long, and criminals anywhere who use computers to commit crimes may end up facing the consequences of their actions in places they did not anticipate.”

His hacking and cyberstalking spree extended to TikTok and Snapchat, leading to the theft of certain private videos of victims. Prosecutors confirm that O’Connor participated in “swatting attacks” by making false emergency calls to trigger a heightened law enforcement attack.

A long stint in prison

Despite pleading guilty to the charges, O’Connor stares at the grim possibility of over 15 years in federal prison as each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years. The 23-year-old is scheduled for sentencing by U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff on June 23, 2023.

In addition to pleading guilty, O’Connor agreed with prosecutors to forfeit $794,012.64 to the digital currency firm and further restitution to other victims of his crimes. O’Connor’s case is one of several that the DOJ is scoring wins against industry bad actors, going the extra mile to secure extraditions of suspects.

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