Briton involved in 2020 Twitter hack pleads guilty in New York

May 10 (UPI) -- A British citizen recently extradited to the United States has pleaded guilty to a series of cybercrimes, including the infamous 2020 hack of high-profile Twitter accounts and the blinking of nearly $800,000 in cryptocurrency from a Manhattan company.

Joseph James O'Connor, 23, was extradited to the United States from Spain on April 26, and pleaded guilty Tuesday in a New York courtroom to two sets of charges brought against him in New York and California.


"O'Connor has left an impressive trail of destruction in the wake of his wave of criminality," U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey for the Northern District of California said in a statement. "This case serves as a warning that the reach of the law is long, and criminals anywhere who use computers to commit crimes may end up facing the consequences of their actions in places they did not anticipate."


Arrested in Spain in July 2021 at the request of the United States, O'Connor was charged over his involvement in the July 2020 hack of more than 130 high-profile accounts, including those of former President Barack Obama, President Joe Biden and others.

The accounts were used to instruct their many, many followers to send bitcoin to a specific account and in return receive double what they had sent. Prosecutors said O'Connor and his co-conspirators received more than 400 transfers worth some $100,000 in the scam.

The Briton also accessed one of the highest-profile TikTok accounts in August of that same year, which he used to post self-promotional messages. He also promised to release sensitive, personal material of the person who legitimately owned the unnamed account.

He also attempted to blackmail a second public victim in June 2019 by threatening to release private information he had stolen from his targets Snapchat unless they posted messages related to O'Connor's online persona, prosecutors said.

Authorities said that O'Connor stalked and threatened a third victim, this time a minor, between June and July 2020 that included a series of swatting attacks, which is when an individual makes a false emergency call to police in order to cause law enforcement to deploy to their victim's location.


O'Connor and his co-conspirators are also accused of having sold access to some of the accounts.

The second set of charges brought against him pertain to the theft of $794,000 in cryptocurrency from a Manhattan-based company.

The prosecutors said O'Connor with others conducted the scheme from March to May 2019 to target the anonymous cryptocurrency company that provided digital wallet infrastructure and related software to worldwide cryptocurrency exchanges.

Federal prosecutors described the hack as a SIM swap attack in which threat actors gain control over a victim's mobile phone number in order to obtain unauthorized access to the accounts registered to it.

The indictment states they targeted at least three of the company's executives with SIM swap attacks to gain unauthorized access to multiple computer systems in the company in order to divert various forms of cryptocurrency including bitcoin and Ethereum from wallets the company managed for two clients.

In the first case brought against O'Connor in the Northern District of California, he pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, two counts of committing computer intrusions, two counts of stalking and making threatening communications, each of which come with a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

In the second case, which was filed against O'Connor in the Southern District of New York, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, each of which come with a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail. He also pleaded guilty to another charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusions.


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