Joel Ortiz, a 21-year-old student from the U.S., charged for SIM-swapping hacks amounting to over $7.5 million in cryptocurrency has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, by the Santa Clara County’s District Attorney.
As per the announcement made on Monday by the Attorney’s Office, Ortiz has had hacked the cellphones of at least 40 individuals. A “prolific” SIM swapper, Ortiz managed to steal more than $5.2 million “in minutes” from a cryptocurrency entrepreneur in Cupertino, California, in just one crime that occurred in May 2018
The stolen funds were “lavishly” spent upon stuff like hiring a helicopter to go to a music festival, $10,000 at Los Angeles clubs and on Gucci luggage and clothing, as mentioned in the announcement. Last year, Ortiz was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport, wherein he pleaded no contest i.e. he accepted the charges but did not plead guilty, to 10 felony theft charges earlier this year.
Ortiz has sentenced after two hearings on Friday by Santa Clara County Judge Edward Lee. While not a feat, Ortiz became one of the first people in the U.S. to be convicted of stealing cryptocurrency by SIM swapping. Judge Lee said:
“These are not Robin Hoods. These are crooks who use a computer instead of a gun. They are not just stealing some ethereal, experimental currency. They are stealing college funds, home mortgages, people’s financial lives.”
Investigated by the REACT (Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team) Task Force, they subsequently seized $400,000 from Ortiz after the arrest. The Attorney’s Office added that the rest of the fund has been either spent or have been concealed.
What are SIM-swap hacks
Attackers manage to clone victims’ SIM cards and could purportedly access online accounts. Such hacks are becoming an increasingly popular means of crypto theft. Just this year, a 20-year-old man from Ohio was formally charged in a New York Supreme Court indictment for stealing the identities and cryptocurrency holdings of over 50 victims across the U.S. via SIM-swaps.
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