On Tuesday, a now 18-year-old Tampa high schooler who, last summer, hacked a bunch of famous peoples’ Twitter accounts to solicit over $100,000 in Bitcoin, pleaded guilty for that transgression. His prison sentence will be three years. He’s already been credited with time served for 229 days. After he’s released he’ll have three additional years on probation.
Graham Ivan Clark was 17-years-old when prosecutors say he masterminded a scheme that saw the social media accounts for Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Kanye West, Bill Gates, Kim Kardashian, Uber, Apple, and others hacked. On the date the scheme was implemented (July 15, 2020) a bunch of celebrity, politician, and corporate accounts sent out a bunch of messages that, well, you probably had to be really gullible to buy into. As an example, Joe Biden’s account sent out a tweet that said: “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!”
Similar messages came out from several other well-known accounts.
The scam ended up getting around $117,000 in Bitcoin before it was halted.
A few days afterward Clark was arrested. Authorities learned that he was able to convince a Twitter employee that worked in the company’s information technology department, which allowed him access to the site’s customer service portal. Using fraudulent tweets he was able to direct those who fell for the scam to send their Bitcoin to his accounts. A pair of other collaborators, Nima Fazeli of Orlando and Mason Sheppard of the United Kingdom, are also facing federal charges for their alleged roles in the same scam. Clark is reported to have met them through an online username-selling forum that goes by OGusers.
Clark’s plea agreement allowed him to be sentenced as a “youthful offender,” which saved him from a minimum 10-year punishment had he been convicted as an adult. If he violates his probation that mandatory minimum could still kick in.
“Graham Clark needs to be held accountable for that crime, and other potential scammers out there need to see the consequences,” said Hillsborough County State’s Attorney Andrew Warren in a statement. “In this case, we’ve been able to deliver those consequences while recognizing that our goal with any child, whenever possible, is to have them learn their lesson without destroying their future.”
The plea agreement prevents Clark from using a computer without being given permission or supervised by law enforcement. His attorney also said he turned over any cryptocurrency he’d acquired.