A federal judge ordered a young hacker who allegedly stole cryptocurrency from Northern California crypto executives to forfeit nearly $5.2 million worth of Bitcoin and a sports car to the U.S. government last week.
Ahmad Wagaafe Hared was a teenage resident of Tucson, Arizona, in 2016 when prosecutors say he began working with two co-conspirators to steal cryptocurrency. Hared allegedly targeted victims in Northern California, which is why his case is playing out in San Francisco’s federal court.
While it’s unclear which company executives Hared targeted in Northern California, the Bay Area has long been a hub of cryptocurrency startups. Hundreds of cryptocurrency organizations have called the region home, according to Crunchbase, including crypto exchange Coinbase, which was headquartered in San Francisco for years and is now leasing space in Mountain View.
Hared and his accomplices first obtained the personal contact information of cryptocurrency executives and investors, prosecutors say. Then, they allegedly contacted cellphone service providers and manipulated company representatives into thinking they were the rightful owners of the phone numbers they were targeting. Hared’s team would then allegedly transfer the targeted phone number over to their own phone; this is known as SIM swapping.
Taking hold of their victims’ phone numbers allowed Hared and his co-conspirators to break into email and other accounts, prosecutors said in a 2019 indictment. Ultimately, Hared and his team members used their access to these accounts to force their way into their victims’ cryptocurrency depositories to drain them.
The scheme was apparently lucrative. Last Friday, a federal judge in San Francisco issued a preliminary order of forfeiture granting the government permission to seize 119.8 Bitcoin from Hared, which is currently worth $5.2 million, according to Yahoo Finance. Hared also has to hand over 93,420 Stellar Coins, worth $11,770, and a 2017 BMW i8, which would likely pick up about $60,000 on the used car market, according to Kelly Bluebook.
Hared entered a plea agreement in 2019, according to the order, but many of the documents in the case remain under seal and the agreement has not been made public. Hared was originally accused in January 2019 of a slew of charges, including computer-related fraud, identity theft and extortion.
Neither Hared’s lawyer nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office responded to requests for comment.
Prosecutors notified Hared’s judge that the criminal case of Anthony Francis Faulk was related, though court filings do not explain the connection.
Faulk pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for participating in a SIM-swapping scheme targeting cryptocurrency execs that ran from October 2016 to May 2018, according to prosecutors’ court filings in his case. Hared’s activity also ran from October 2016 to May 2018, prosecutors said in his indictment.
Faulk’s scheme bilked more than $3.4 million from 10 victims, prosecutors alleged. Faulk used the proceeds to buy a nearly $1 million home, multiple high-end cars including a Ferrari and a Mercedes, a Rolex and more. Prosecutors sought to seize nearly $19 million from Faulk as well as five cars, according to a sentencing memo.
Last month, a San Francisco federal judge ordered that the government take hold of some of Faulk’s property, including land in Pennsylvania, multiple bank accounts and gold jewelry. He was also sentenced to four years in prison in a related money laundering case and owes $2.8 million in restitution.
The order also gave the government ownership of Faulk’s royalty rights to 20 different songs that he had apparently purchased. Titles included: “Back on the Grind,” “Get Hyphy” and “Burglar Bars.”
Noah Baustin can be reached at email@example.com