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Friday, July 31, 2020

Tampa teen and Orlando resident arrested on charges of being behind celebrity Twitter hack and Bitcoin scam

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 4:33 PM

click image PHOTO COURTESY TWITTER/FACEBOOK
  • Photo courtesy Twitter/Facebook
A Tampa teen was arrested Friday morning after being accused by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of Justice of being behind a massive Twitter hacking spree, taking over the accounts of Barack Obama, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and more.

A local 17-year-old, whom we won’t name because he’s a minor, was arrested in Tampa and booked into Hillsborough County Jail Friday morning, according to jail records. He now faces 30 felony charges, filed against him by Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren in relation to the July 15 incident.



The teen is suspected to have stolen the identities of the hacked accounts and scammed followers into sending money to accounts he owned through Bitcoin, leading victims to believe their contribution would be multiplied by those he was impersonating. The teen is thought to have gained access to these accounts by compromising a Twitter employee.

The accounts that were allegedly hacked include those of Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Floyd Mayweather, Jeff Bezos, Joe Biden, Kanye West, Mike Bloomberg, Warren Buffet and Wiz Khalifa, as well as several company accounts, including Apple and Uber.

On the account of presidential nominee Joe Biden, the teen wrote, “I am giving back to the community. All Bitcoin sent to the address below will be sent back doubled! If you send $1,000, I will send back $2,000. Only doing this for 30 minutes ... Enjoy!”

He totaled more than $100,000 in Bitcoin in just one day, according to the state attorney’s office. Typically this would be a federal case, but it appears that Warren is taking on this case so he can charge the teen as an adult.

“These crimes were perpetrated using the names of famous people and celebrities, but they’re not the primary victims here,” Warren said in a statement. “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.”

The state attorney’s office says that as a cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is difficult to retrace or recover if stolen.

The teen now faces charges of one count of organized fraud over $50,000, 17 counts of felony communications, 10 counts of identity theft, one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of hacking and unlawful access to a computer in furtherance of a scheme to defraud.

Two other individuals were arrested later Friday afternoon on charges of being accomplices in this hack: Orlando resident Nima Fazeli (22), and U.K. resident Mason Sheppard (19).

Charges against Fazeli and Sheppard were filed in California federal court. According to the Verge, Fazeli is charged with one count of computer intrusion, with a possible five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

This story originally appeared in our sister paper Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

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