A federal judge has issued an order mandating that a young hacker, who stands accused of pilfering cryptocurrency from crypto executives in Northern California, surrender approximately $5.2 million worth of Bitcoin and a sports car to the U.S. government.
Ahmad Wagaafe Hared, who resided in Tucson, Arizona, as a teenager in 2016, allegedly initiated his involvement in cryptocurrency theft alongside two co-conspirators. Hared is accused of specifically targeting victims in Northern California, which is why his case is being adjudicated in San Francisco’s federal court.
While the identities of the targeted Northern California company executives remain undisclosed, the Bay Area has long been a hub for cryptocurrency startups. According to Crunchbase, numerous cryptocurrency organizations, including crypto exchange Coinbase, which was headquartered in San Francisco for several years before relocating to Mountain View, have thrived in the region.
As per prosecutors, Hared and his accomplices initially acquired the personal contact information of cryptocurrency executives and investors. Subsequently, they allegedly contacted cellphone service providers and deceived company representatives into believing they were the legitimate owners of the targeted phone numbers. The group would then proceed to transfer the targeted phone numbers to their own devices, a technique known as SIM swapping.
Gaining control over their victims’ phone numbers allowed Hared and his co-conspirators to infiltrate email and other accounts, as outlined in a 2019 indictment. Ultimately, they used this access to compromise their victims’ cryptocurrency holdings.
This illicit scheme appears to have yielded significant profits. Last week, a federal judge in San Francisco issued a preliminary forfeiture order authorizing the government to seize 119.8 Bitcoin, currently valued at $5.2 million. Hared is also obliged to relinquish 93,420 Stellar Coins, worth $11,770, and a 2017 BMW i8, which would likely fetch around $60,000 in the used car market, according to Kelly Bluebook.
While Hared entered into a plea agreement in 2019, many documents related to the case remain sealed, and the agreement itself has not been disclosed to the public. In January 2019, Hared faced a slew of charges, including computer-related fraud, identity theft, and extortion.
Requests for comments from Hared’s attorney and the U.S. Attorney’s Office went unanswered.
Prosecutors have informed Hared’s judge that the criminal case of Anthony Francis Faulk is connected, though the court filings do not elucidate the nature of this connection.
Faulk pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for participating in a SIM-swapping scheme that targeted cryptocurrency executives from October 2016 to May 2018, according to prosecutors’ court documents in his case. Hared’s activities also spanned from October 2016 to May 2018, as indicated in his indictment.
Faulk’s scheme allegedly defrauded more than $3.4 million from ten victims. He utilized the proceeds to purchase a home valued at nearly $1 million, multiple high-end vehicles including a Ferrari and a Mercedes, a Rolex watch, and more. Prosecutors sought to seize nearly $19 million from Faulk, along with five vehicles, according to a sentencing memo.
In a recent development, a San Francisco federal judge ordered the government to take possession of certain assets belonging to Faulk, including land in Pennsylvania, multiple bank accounts, and gold jewelry. Faulk was also sentenced to four years in prison in connection with a money laundering case and is required to pay $2.8 million in restitution.
Additionally, the order granted the government ownership of Faulk’s royalty rights to twenty different songs that he had apparently purchased, bearing titles such as “Back on the Grind,” “Get Hyphy,” and “Burglar Bars.”