TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa teenager is in jail, accused of being the “mastermind” behind a hack on the social media website Twitter that caused limited access to the site and high-profile accounts, according to jail records and the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office.
8 On Your Side’s Ryan Hughes received exclusive information about the arrest of 17-year-old Graham Clark.
Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren filed 30 felony charges against the teen this week for “scamming people across America” in connection with the Twitter hack that happened on July 15. The charges he’s facing include one count of organized fraud, 17 counts of communications fraud, one count of fraudulent use of personal information with over $100,000 or 30 or more victims, 10 counts of fraudulent use of personal information and one count of access to computer or electronic device without authority.
Hillsborough County Jail records show Clark was booked into jail shortly after 6:30 a.m. Friday.
Warren’s office says the scheme to defraud “stole the identities of prominent people” and “posted messages in their names directing victims to send Bitcoin” to accounts that were associated with the Tampa teen. According to the state attorney, the scheme reaped more than $100,000 in Bitcoin in just one day.
“As a cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is difficult to track and recover if stolen in a scam,” the state attorney’s office says.
Former President Barack Obama, presidential candidate Joe Biden, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk were just some of the names who were impacted by the hack. Twitter officials recently said that it had limited access to its internal tools after the high-profile hack.
“These crimes were perpetrated using the names of famous people and celebrities, but they’re not the primary victims here. This ‘Bit-Con’ was designed to steal money from regular Americans from all over the country, including here in Florida,” Warren said in a statement. “This massive fraud was orchestrated right here in our backyard, and we will not stand for that.”
According to the state attorney’s office, the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice found the suspect behind the attack in Hillsborough County after a “complex, nationwide investigation.”
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of California, Clark is one of three people charged for their alleged roles in the Twitter hack. The two other suspects were identified as 22-year-old Nima Fazeli, a.k.a. “Rolex,” of Orlando and 19-year-old Mason Sheppard, a.k.a. “Chaewon,” of the United Kingdom.
“I want to congratulate our federal law enforcement partners – the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, the FBI, the IRS, and the Secret Service – as well as the Florida Department of Law enforcement. They worked quickly to investigate and identify the perpetrator of a sophisticated and extensive fraud,” State Attorney Warren said in his statement.
Warren added that Clark will be prosecuted in Hillsborough County because “this defendant lives here in Tampa” and “he committed the crime here.”
Twitter released a statement shortly after the arrest thanking law enforcement for their work.
“We appreciate the swift actions of law enforcement in this investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case progresses,” the company said. “For our part, we are focused on being transparent and providing updates regularly.”
The day after the hack, White House officials were concerned about President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, which he uses daily to push out news and other information. They assured the public that his account has extra protections.
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis also voiced his concern that similar hacks could target Florida’s economy and elections. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was called on to help investigate the breach.
Patronis released a scathing statement Friday after the arrests were announced saying “Twitter needs to step up their game.”
“News that the alleged mastermind behind the recent unprecedented Twitter hacks was arrested right in Florida’s backyard is alarming. The fact that a teenager could gain such access to Twitter is mind-boggling and goes to prove that the tech-giant needs to step up its game,” Patronis said. “This is exactly why I called on FDLE to conduct an investigation and for Twitter to provide vital information to help protect our citizens. Twitter is an extremely powerful tool that governments, industries, members of the media and billions of other people rely on for communicating important information.”