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TAMPA â A 17-year-old from Tampa is at the center of a Twitter hack scheme which gave him and two others access to the high-profile account of Bill Gates, Barack Obama and many other celebrities with millions of followers, authorities say.
Graham Ivan Clark was arrested Friday at his Tampa apartment, according to the Hillsborough State Attorneyâs Office. The two others charged Friday are 22-year-old Nima Fazeli of Orlando and 19-year-old Mason Sheppard of the United Kingdom, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorneyâs Office in California. Clark is being charged in Florida while the other two men were charged in the Northern District of California.
âHeâs a 17 year-old kid who apparently just graduated high school,â said State Attorney Andrew Warren of Clark, during a press conference in Tampa on Friday. âBut no make no mistake, this was not an ordinary 17-year-old. This was a highly sophisticated attack on a magnitude not seen before.â
Clarkâs scheme was to steal the identities of prominent people, then post messages in their names directing victims to send Bitcoin to accounts he owned. The state attorneyâs office said Friday that he reaped more than $100,000 in Bitcoin in just one day.
âThis defendant lives here in Tampa, he committed the crime here, and heâll be prosecuted here,â Warren said in an online news conference.
He added that Florida law gives prosecutors greater flexibility to try a minor as an adult in a financial fraud case.
âI want to congratulate our federal law enforcement partnersâthe U.S. Attorneyâs Office for the Northern District of California, the FBI, the IRS, and the Secret Serviceâas well as the Florida Department of Law enforcement. They worked quickly to investigate and identify the perpetrator of a sophisticated and extensive fraud,â Warren said.
The hacking took place on July 15. At the time, Twitter said it was a âcoordinatedâ attack targeting its employees âwith access to internal systems and tools.â
Clark faces charges of one count of organized fraud of more than $50,000, 17 counts of felony communications fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, 10 counts of identity theft and one count for hacking and unlawful access to a computer in furtherance of a scheme to defraud.
Sheppard, who used the hacking alias âChaewon,â faces charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the intentional access of a protected computer. Fazeli, or known under the hacker alias âRolex,â faces charges of aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer.
Clark gained access to Twitter accounts and to the social media platformâs internal controls by compromising a Twitter employee, Warren said. Clark then sold access to those accounts and used the identities of prominent people to solicit money in the form of bitcoin, promising in return he would send back twice as much. He collected the bitcoin and never gave back the money he received.
âThis was a massive fraud orchestrated right here in our own back yard and we wonât stand for that,â Warren said.
Clark allegedly tricked people into sending money to him with a similar message on the accounts he hacked into. For presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Clark wrote:
âI 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!â
We appreciate the swift actions of law enforcement in this investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case progresses. For our part, we are focused on being transparent and providing updates regularly. For the latest, see here ð https://t.co/kHty8TXaly
Some of the celebrities who authorities say were hacked by Clark included: Biden, Gates, Obama, Jeff Bezos, Mike Bloomberg, Warren Buffet, Wiz Khalifa, Floyd Mayweather, Elon Musk and Kanye West. A handful of companies had their accounts hacked, too, including Apple and Uber.
In an update on its internal investigation on Thursday, Twitter said that the incident targeted employees using a phone spear-phishing attack, according to a news release.
âWe appreciate the swift actions of law enforcement in this investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case progresses,â the company tweeted from its communications account Friday afternoon. âFor our part, we are focused on being transparent and providing updates regularly.â
At the time of the attack, the popular social networking company put a temporary freeze on all âverifiedâ accounts to prevent further fraud from public figures.
News – Tampa teen arrested in hack of Twitter accounts of Obama, Bill Gates, Kanye West and others