Stealing someone’s cryptocurrency is bad enough, but being an aggressive dick about it? That’s just mean.
Two Massachusetts men stand accused of a years-long scheme to gain access to cellphones and email accounts in order to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cryptocurrency. And, according to the Department of Justice, along the way the men threatened their victims’ family members.
Real gems, these two. The accused Massholes, Eric Meiggs, 21, and Declan Harrington, 20, allegedly went after execs at unnamed cryptocurrency companies as well as people with “high value” social media accounts.
“When a social media handle is an especially short, common, or well-known word of phrase,” the indictment helpfully explains, “e.g. ‘@John,’ or ‘@awesome,’ the handle carries a particular cachet, because the ability to capture such a common word for individual use suggests that the user was an especially early adopter of that social media network.”
Meiggs and Harrington allegedly took control of victims’ phone numbers by means of SIM swapping — that is, convincing a cell service provider to reassign the number to a new SIM card that the hackers control — and then forcing password resets from email providers or cryptocurrency services.
The indictment includes 10 victims, and the accompanying press release notes that “[members] of the conspiracy allegedly stole, or attempted to steal, over $550,000 in cryptocurrency from these victims alone.”
As mentioned above, the two men allegedly didn’t just rip off crypto. Meiggs and Harrington also stand accused of targeting victims’ family members in bizarre and disturbing ways in an attempt to force victims to pay up.
For example, after having taken control of a California resident’s phone number, someone involved in the plot texted that person’s daughter from the seized phone.
“TELL YOUR DAD TO GIVE US BITCOIN,” read the message.
And yeah, it gets worse. Around Nov. 30, 2015, the indictment accuses Meiggs of calling a Michigan resident and threatening to kill that person’s wife if he “did not give up the Instagram handle.” Meiggs also allegedly told the same person he knew where he lived, and also sent the victim his mom’s address as an additional threat.
“Just give up,” Meiggs allegedly wrote.
Meiggs and Harrington are charged with one count of computer fraud and abuse, one count of aggravated identity theft, one count of conspiracy, and eight counts of wire fraud.
It was only earlier this year that we witnessed the first conviction of a hacker in the U.S. for SIM-swapping related crimes. In that case, 20-year-old Joel Ortiz of Boston (sensing a theme?) pleaded guilty to stealing over $5 million worth of cryptocurrency and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Meiggs and Harrington, it seems, may have taken the wrong lesson from that case.