Joel Ortiz, the principal suspect in a Bitcoin theft case, has been sentenced to years in prison according to a release from the office of the District Attorney of Santa Clara County, April 22, 2019. The 21-year old former Boston student stole cryptocurrency over $7.5 million from 40 victims via sim swapping.
10-Year Sentence for Bitcoin Thief
In a statement from the office of the District Attorney of Santa Clara County, Joel Ortiz, a 21-year old former student from Boston, would be in jail for the next 10 years, after his involvement in cryptocurrency theft worth over $7.5 million. Ortiz carried out the theft by hacking the phones of about 40 victims through a process known as sim swapping.
After two hearings, Judge Edward Lee of Santa Clara County sentenced Ortiz on Friday, April 19. Speaking on the matter, prosecuting attorney Erin West, said:
“These are not Robin Hoods. These are crooks who use a computer instead of a gun. They are not just stealing some ethereal, experimental currency. They are stealing college funds, home mortgages, people’s financial lives.”
Ortiz’s arrest and conviction for a sim swap scam are the first of its kind in the United States. The release further stated that Ortiz was extravagant with the stolen funds. The Bostonian spent part of the money on Gucci bag and clothes, lavished $10,000 in Los Angeles clubs, and hired a helicopter to attend a music festival.
The REACT task force, the body responsible for solving crimes in Silicon Valley, stated that it confiscated $400,000 from the kingpin after the arrest.
In August 2018, California authorities arrested Joel Ortiz for hacking the cell phones of over 40 victims. Some of the victims were attendees at the Consensus Blockchain Conference. Oritz, who was 20 years old at the time, was nabbed at the Los Angeles International Airport. Subsequently, the court slammed Ortiz with 28 criminal charges with a bail of $1 million.
The Menace of Bitcoin Theft Via Sim Swapping
Sim swapping is a process whereby fraudsters trick a telecoms company into transferring a victim’s phone number to a SIM card held by the hacker. Upon receipt of the phone number, the hacker resets the victim’s password, thereby gaining access to the crypto coins and sensitive accounts.
The practice of sim swapping scam is relatively easy and has become widespread, with virtual currency holders as prime targets. As reported by BTC Manager, New York authorities arrested Nicholas Truglia, a Manhattan resident, for stealing $1 million worth of virtual currency through sim swapping.
Also in August 2018, a United States investor, Michael Terpin, sued telecoms giant, AT&T for negligence and fraud. According to the complaint filed by the investor, the telecommunications company gave Terpin’s phone number to hackers which gave them access to the investor’s cryptocurrency. Furthermore, authorities nabbed 19-year old Xzavyer Narvaez for hacking into victims’ phones and stealing large amounts of virtual currency.