July 31 (UPI) — Three people, including two teens, were charged Friday with being behind a hack of Twitter accounts belonging to Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Gates and others as part of a cryptocurrency scam, the U.S. Justice Department announced.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California identified two of the men as Mason “Chaewon” Sheppard, 19, of Bognor Regis, Britain, and Nima “Rolex” Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, Fla.
The office of Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren identified the third suspect, Graham Ivan Clark, 17, of Tampa, Fla. He was arrested Friday.
He faces 30 felony charges related to the scam, including organized fraud, communications fraud, fraudulent use of personal information and access to computer or electronic device without authority.
Sheppard faces charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and the intentional access of a protected computer. Fazeli was charged with aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer.
“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 back yard, and we will not stand for that,” Warren said.
The suspects are accused of also targeting Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Kanye West and Warren Buffet in mid-July, using their accounts to ask people to send him money using bitcoin, promising to double any amount sent to it.
“Everyone is asking me to give back, and now is the time,” one form of the tweet read. “You send $1,000, I send you back $2,000.”
Prosecutors said the scam brought in more than $100,000 in bitcoin from some 400 accounts in one day. The currency can be difficult to track and recover.
Warren said Clark will be prosecuted in Tampa as an adult.
“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.”