The British teenager charged with hacking Twitter and stealing thousands of dollars worth of Bitcoin was today described as ‘a nice lad’ whose father passed away around five years ago.
The US Department of Justice charged Mason Sheppard, 19, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the intentional access of a protected computer.
He was one of three people linked to the hack earlier this month which saw accounts belonging to Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Barack Obama hijacked and used to post links to Bitcoin wallets along with false claims that payments would be matched.
Neighbours of the family’s terraced home in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, have since said his mother Lorraine had been bringing Mr Sheppard up by herself since her husband Mark died.
The British teenager charged with hacking Twitter and stealing thousands of dollars worth of Bitcoin was today described as ‘a nice lad’ whose father passed away around five years ago (stock image)
A woman in her sixties, who lives in the same road but wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘I know Lorraine and she’s lovely. I’ve not seen Mason in years but he was always a very nice lad.
‘His dad Mark died a few years ago – about five or six years I think.
‘This is a real shock. No one around here has seen any police activity or anything.’
A middle-aged woman was at the family’s £250,000 three-bedroomed property earlier today but declined to comment on the Twitter investigation.
She said: ‘I have absolutely nothing to say. Please leave us alone.’
Former US president Barack Obama, the most followed account on Twitter, was among the high-profile targets used to carry out the bitcoin scam
US teenager Graham Ivan Clark, 17, was arrested on Friday morning in Tampa
Sheppard, also known as ‘Chaewon’, 19, was yesterday charged in a criminal complaint in the Northern District of California.
The charges were conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and the intentional access of a protected computer.
Nima Fazeli, also known as ‘Rolex’, 22, of Orlando, Florida, was charged with aiding and abetting the intentional access of a protected computer.
The third defendant is a juvenile who will not be identified, the justice department said.
The scam saw more than $100,000 stolen, according to the Department of Justice, with the charges carrying a maximum penalty of 45 years in prison.
US Attorney David L. Anderson said: ‘Criminal conduct over the Internet may feel stealthy to the people who perpetrate it, but there is nothing stealthy about it.’
He continued: ‘There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence.
United States Attorney David L Anderson (pictured in 2019) previously said: ‘There is a false belief within the criminal hacker community that attacks like the Twitter hack can be perpetrated anonymously and without consequence’
Twitter says hackers ‘manipulated’ employees to access 130 accounts
Twitter said last week that hackers ‘manipulated’ some of its employees to access accounts. More than $100,000 worth of the virtual currency was sent to email addresses mentioned in the tweets, according to Blockchain.com, which monitors crypto transactions.
‘We know that they accessed tools only available to our internal support teams to target 130 Twitter accounts,’ said a statement posted on Twitter’s blog.
For 45 of those accounts, the hackers were able to reset passwords, login and send tweets, it added, while the personal data of up to eight unverified users was downloaded. Twitter locked down affected accounts and removed the fraudulent tweets. It also shut off accounts not affected by the hack as a precaution.
‘[The] charging announcement demonstrates that the elation of nefarious hacking into a secure environment for fun or profit will be short-lived.
‘Criminal conduct over the Internet may feel stealthy to the people who perpetrate it, but there is nothing stealthy about it.
‘In particular, I want to say to would-be offenders, break the law, and we will find you.’
The criminal complaint states that the Twitter attack consisted of a combination of technical breaches and social engineering.
‘The result of the Twitter hack was the compromise of approximately 130 Twitter accounts pertaining to politicians, celebrities, and musicians,’ it says.
‘The hackers are alleged to have created a scam bitcoin account, to have hacked into Twitter VIP accounts, to have sent solicitations from the Twitter VIP accounts with a false promise to double any bitcoin deposits made to the scam account, and then to have stolen the bitcoin that victims deposited into the scam account.
‘As alleged in the complaints, the scam bitcoin account received more than 400 transfers worth more than 100,000 US dollars (£76,000).
‘The defendants are alleged to have victimised the Twitter VIP users whose accounts were hacked.
‘The defendants are alleged to have victimised the people who sent bitcoin in response to the scam solicitations.’