According to a Monday press release by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, Joel Ortiz, a 21-year old student of the Boston High School was handed a ten-year jail term for stealing cryptocurrencies worth roughly $7.5 million.
Nature of the Crime
The release described Joel Ortiz as a “prolific SIM swapper” who targeted victims to steal cryptocurrency and to take over social media accounts to sell them for Bitcoin.
Sim Swapping is the illegal technique of hijacking a victim’s mobile number by contacting the network provider and claiming that the sim card was either lost and stolen. The network provider would then port the mobile number to the new sim allowing the thief to bypass the two-factor authentication used to lock crypto wallets.
It was a such a technique that Joel Ortiz employed to steal more than $7.5 million from at least 40 victims, including two in the Santa Clara County where Judge Edward Lee tried him. On one occasion in May 2018, he reportedly stole $5.2 million in a few minutes from a Cupertino crypto entrepreneur.
As per the release, he lavished the money he stole from his victims on non-essential things such as spending nights at expensive hotel clubs, hiring a helicopter to a music festival and purchasing Gucci outfits until his arrest in late January 2019.
Out of the total money Joel Ortiz collected from his victims, the Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) task force could only recover $400,000 with the rest purportedly spent or concealed.
He will now serve the ten-year jail term which gives him the unwanted record of being one of the first people in the U.S to sent to prison for crypto-theft via Sim Swapping.
In a similar development last month, Stmarket.co reported that the Japanese police arrested an 18-year old who allegedly stole $135,000 worth of cryptocurrency from a local crypto wallet service.
In another case, an Israeli man, Afek Zarad was earlier this week indicted for a $9 million crypto theft.