BOSTON — Two men from Massachusetts were arrested and charged in Boston federal court Thursday in an elaborate scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from cryptocurrency executives and others that included taking over their social media accounts and threats to their families.
Federal prosecutors say Eric Meiggs, 21, of Brockton, and Declan Harrington, 20, of Rockport, used cell phone SIM-card swapping and computer hacking to target online accounts of at least 10 individuals with large amounts of cryptocurrency. The victims included the heads of cryptocurrency companies.
The two defendants stole or attempted to steal more than $550,000 in cryptocurrency, according to prosecutors, and gained access into two victims’ “OG” (original gangster) accounts with social media companies. They were unsuccessful in stealing from some of the victims.
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Meiggs and Harrington, whose alleged actions spanned multiple years, were charged in an 11-count indictment and arraigned Thursday. Each face one count of conspiracy, eight counts of wire fraud, one count of computer fraud and abuse, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Cryptocurrency refers to digital currency, including Bitcoin, that does not rely on a central bank but instead transactions from user to user.
Prosecutors allege the two men engaged in “SIM swapping,” which occurs when cybercriminals convince a cell phone service provider to reassign the phone number of another individual’s SIM card, located inside their phone, to a phone controlled by them.
It allowed them to pose as the victim to request that social media providers send them password-rest links or an authentication code to their newly controlled phone numbers.
In one instance, according to the indictment, the defendants in March 2018 gained access to one victim’s Facebook and Gmail accounts. They then sent messages to the victim’s contacts, convincing one of them to send $100,000 in cryptocurrency.
Weeks later, the defendants accessed another victim’s LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as accounts at online cryptocurrency exchanges, allowing them to steal $10,000 in cryptocurrency, the indictment says. The defendants contacted the wife of the victim, prosecutors say, and sent a text message to his daughter saying, “TELL YOUR DAD TO GIVE US BITCOIN.”
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In November and December of 2015, prosecutors say Meiggs sent a series of Twitter messages to another victim seeking control of the victim’s Instagram account, which was an “OG” account name. Prosecutors say Meiggs indicated he knew where the victim lived and sent the address and name of the victim’s mother with the message: “Just give up.”
The indictment does not identify the victims or name their companies. Five are residents of California. Others live in New Jersey, Illinois, Nevada, Michigan and Arizona.
Reach Joey Garrison and on Twitter @joeygarrison.