An 18-year-old Florida teenager who ran a scam that used hacked celebrity Twitter accounts to dupe ordinary people out of their money has been sentenced to three years behind bars, the Office of the State Attorney 13th Judicial Circuit in Tampa announced.
Graham Clark, who was 17 when he committed the crimes, reached a deal with prosecutors, under which he pleaded guilty to 30 counts—including organized fraud and fraudulent use of personal information—and will serve three years in a juvenile facility, followed by three years probation, the state attorney’s office said Tuesday.
“He took over the accounts of famous people, but the money he stole came from regular, hard-working people,” State Attorney Andrew Warren said in a statement. “Graham Clark needs to be held accountable for that crime, and other potential scammers out there need to see the consequences.”
The scam involved Clark taking over a number of high-profile Twitter accounts—including those of President Joe Biden, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Kim Kardashian West. Clark was able to access the accounts after persuading a Twitter employee that he worked in the company’s IT department, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Once Clark accessed the accounts, he tweeted a link to a bitcoin address and wrote, “all bitcoin sent to our address below will be sent back to you doubled!” prompting a number of people to send in cryptocurrency in hopes of a quick profit.
“Instead Clark kept the money,” the state attorney’s office wrote, adding that the so-called Bit-Con grift netted him more than $117,440. The money was seized by law enforcement and is expected to be returned to the rightful owners.
The incident represented an embarrassing security breach for Twitter, which was forced to suspend all verified accounts from sending tweets for several hours while it scrambled to secure the platform.
Following an investigation, Clark was arrested several days after running the scam.
“A great deal of impressive work has gone into stopping these fraud schemes and holding the people behind them accountable,” Warren said.
“This is one part of a nationwide effort, and we want to recognize all the federal partners involved—the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, other elements of the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, the IRS, and the Secret Service,” he added.
“They quickly unraveled this mystery that stretched around the world, and then worked nonstop to catch the fraudsters who tried to take advantage of millions of unsuspecting people,” he said.
Two more people were formally charged by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in connection with the scam—22-year-old Nima Fazeli of Orlando and 19-year-old British man Mason Sheppard, who go by the hacker aliases “Rolex” and “Chaewon,” respectively, according to the DOJ. Their cases continue.