Navigation
  •  

Florida Twitter hacker agrees to three years in prison in plea deal

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)

The Tampa teen who took control of well-known Twitter accounts last summer and used them to solicit more than $100,000 in Bitcoin has agreed to plead guilty to state charges in exchange for a three-year prison sentence.

Paperwork filed Monday in Hillsborough circuit court indicates that Graham Ivan Clark has agreed to serve three years in prison, followed by three years probation.

The agreement will allow Clark, 18, to be sentenced as a “youthful offender.” He may be eligible to serve some of his time in a military-style boot camp.

Provisions of the plea agreement require that Clark will be barred from using computers without permission and supervision from law enforcement.

A formal plea hearing is set for 2:30 p.m.

Clark was 17 when he was accused of masterminding a brazen social media hack that targeted some of the world’s most famous names.

Twitter users were flummoxed July 15 when accounts belonging to several celebrities, political figures and well-known corporations began tweeting strange messages.

“I am giving back to the community,” tweeted the account belonging to President Joe Biden. “All Bitcoin sent to the address below will be sent back doubled! If you send $1,000, I will send back $2,000. Only doing this for 30 minutes … Enjoy!”

Similar messages came from Twitter accounts belonging to former President Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Kanye West, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mike Bloomberg, Warren Buffet, Floyd Mayweather, Kim Kardashian, Apple, Uber and other companies.

Authorities said the scam netted about $117,000 in Bitcoin before it was shut down.

Clark, a student at Gaither High School, was arrested days later at his home in the Northdale area of Hillsborough County.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement found that he accessed Twitter’s systems by convincing an employee he worked in the company’s information technology department. He then managed to access the company’s customer service portal.

Clark used the phony tweets to direct people to send bitcoin to accounts he owned, prosecutors said. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that is difficult to track.

Two others, Nima Fazeli of Orlando and Mason Sheppard of the United Kingdom, were also charged with federal crimes related to the scheme.

Prosecutors charged Clark in state court, they said, because state law allowed greater flexibility to try a minor as an adult in a financial fraud case.

___

(c) 2021 the Tampa Bay Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.