Cybercrimes don’t pay: PlugwalkJoe pleads guilty to several high-profile schemes

Category: Americas Crypto Regulatory

Joseph James O’Connor, a British man who was extradited from Spain to the US last month, has pleaded guilty to his role in several cybercrimes.

Twitter hack mastermind pleads guilty to numerous cybercrimes

These schemes included the hacking of the Twitter accounts of high-profile individuals such as Elon Musk and Joe Biden. O’Connor also confessed to stealing cryptocurrency worth $794,000.

O’Connor, 23 years old, pleaded guilty in a New York court after being brought to the US on April 26th.

About two years ago, Joseph James O’Connor was apprehended in Spain for his involvement in the hacking of over 130 Twitter accounts in July 2020. The targeted accounts included those belonging to Uber, Kanye West, Apple, Bill Gates, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and Elon Musk, who currently owns the social media site.

O’Connor and his accomplices took over the accounts and enticed the owners’ followers to transfer bitcoin by offering to double their money.

In 2019, the group leveraged a technique called sim card swaps to infiltrate the social media accounts of two media personalities. The court documents did not mention the names of these individuals, but media reports identified them as Addison Rae, a TikTok star, and Bella Thorne, an actress.

The group threatened to release their private images and other confidential information.

Kenneth A Polite Jr, a member of the US Justice Department’s criminal division, noted how “Like many criminal actors, O’Connor tried to stay anonymous by using a computer to hide behind stealth accounts and aliases from outside the United States.”

O’Connor’s criminal activities were flagrant and malicious, and his conduct impacted multiple people’s lives. He harassed, threatened, and extorted his victims, causing substantial emotional harm. But this (guilty) plea shows that our investigators and prosecutors will identify, locate, and bring to justice such criminals to ensure they face the consequences for their crimes –  Kenneth A Polite Jr

It is alleged that the hacking group also employed this method to steal $794,000 worth of virtual currency from a New York cryptocurrency firm.

O’Connor, who used the online moniker PlugwalkJoe, has pleaded guilty to several charges, including computer intrusion, stalking, extortion, money laundering, and wire fraud. The most severe of the offences carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

According to a DOJ press release, O’Connor is scheduled to be sentenced on 23 June.

Graham Ivan Clark, a Florida teenager who was allegedly the ringleader of the hacking group, was sentenced to three years in a juvenile prison in July 2021 under a plea deal. Clark was only 17 when he was charged, and he received the maximum sentence allowed under Florida’s Youthful Offender Act.

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