- The Washington Times
Friday, July 31, 2020

A Florida teen is among three individuals charged Friday in connection with the recent high-profile hack of 130 Twitter accounts, including Bill Gates, former President Barack Obama and Joseph R. Biden.

Graham Ivan Clark, 17, of Tampa was arrested Friday morning and is accused of orchestrating the online scheme to net more than $100,000 in Bitcoin.

Also arrested were Mason Sheppard, 19, of the United Kingdom and Nima Fazeli, 22, of Orlando, Florida.

Both adults were charged in the Northern District of California, while the teen was referred by the Department of Justice to the state attorney’s office in Tampa.

Mr. Sheppard is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and intentional access of a protected computer; Mr. Fazeli faces charges of aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer.

“There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence,” said U.S. Attorney Brian Anderson of the Northern District of California. “Today’s charging announcement demonstrates that the elation of nefarious hacking into a secure environment for fun or profit will be short-lived.”

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said his office has filed 30 felony charges against Mr. Clark, the suspected “mastermind” of the recent hack, which also compromised the accounts of billionaires Elon Musk and Kanye West, among others.

“This massive fraud was orchestrated right here in our backyard, and we will not stand for that,” Mr. Warren said.

The official Twitter accounts of Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden and the others were among several hijacked on July 15 and used to solicit payments in Bitcoin, a type of digital cryptocurrency, resulting in the equivalent of more than $100 million being sent to online accounts that investigators have connected to the teen, according to Mr. Warren.

A total of 130 accounts were targeted during the scam and 45 were successfully breached, Twitter said previously. Of those, additional user data was stolen in up to eight instances, according to Twitter.

“We appreciate the swift actions of law enforcement in this investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case progresses,” Twitter said Friday following reports of the arrests.

Mr. Clark has been charged with one count of organized fraud, 17 counts of communications fraud, 11 counts of fraudulent use of personal information and one count of computer hacking.

Arrest records did not list a lawyer for Mr. Clark who could be reached for comment, and it was not immediately clear if his alleged co-conspirators had obtained legal representation either.

Mr. Clark remained in custody as of Friday afternoon, according to the records.

The Justice Department refrained from identifying the teenager but Mr. Warren did not. Florida law allows minors to be charged as adults in financial fraud cases when appropriate, his office noted.

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