The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is vigorously seeking the recovery of millions of dollars in Bitcoin stolen by a juvenile hacker named Ahmad Wagaafe Hared in a significant legal development. The stolen cryptocurrency, worth about $5.2 million, was obtained during a hacking binge between 2016 and 2018. Prosecutors also demand the return of a high-end sports automobile acquired by Hared using ill-gotten Bitcoin.
According to The San Francisco Standard, a federal judge ordered Hared to surrender the stolen $5.2 million in Bitcoin last week. Hared and two co-conspirators devised a SIM-swapping plot to obtain this Bitcoin and the expensive sports automobile during the abovementioned time.
SIM-swapping is a well-known hacking technique in which fraudsters trick cell phone providers into handing over control of a victim’s phone to the hacker, who pretends to be the legitimate owner. This classic social engineering approach allows hackers to access personal information for financial gain or bypass text-message-based two-factor authentication.
In 2016, Hared, then 18 years old and living in Tucson, Arizona, worked with his co-conspirator, Matthew Gene Ditman of Nevada, to influence cell phone carrier customer service employees. They misled these representatives into disclosing essential information regarding SIM cards tied to Bitcoin executives’ accounts in northern California. While the executives are unknown, this region is synonymous with Silicon Valley, as it is home to numerous bitcoin companies and startups, including the now-defunct Coinbase, the largest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange.
Hared was well-known on the darknet under the handle ‘winblo,’ according to independent cybersecurity writer Brian Krebs. He was a well-known and respected underground marketplace member specializing in selling desirable social media accounts.
According to Krebs, Hared used some illegally obtained money to purchase a BMW i8 worth around $150,000. Prosecutors also alleged that Hared and Ditman attempted to extort more payments from some of their victims after compromising their accounts.
The criminal operation was ultimately ended in 2019 when the FBI launched a thorough investigation that resulted in the arrests of Hared and Ditman. The two hackers, however, have yet to be sentenced, leaving their final destiny in the hands of the legal system.
As a result, the DOJ’s proactive pursuit of justice in this case sends a strong message that cybercriminals will be held accountable for their activities, regardless of their age or the complexity of their schemes. The Bitcoin community is eagerly awaiting the outcome of this high-profile case in the hopes that it will deter future cybercrime.