Three individuals have been indicted for an identity theft conspiracy, allegedly including the notorious $400 million hack of cryptocurrency exchange FTX in November 2022. The accused individuals are believed to be part of a SIM-card swapping group that targeted FTX’s virtual wallets on the same day the exchange filed for bankruptcy protection. The alleged ringleader, 26-year-old Robert Powell, was released on a $10,000 bond after a detention hearing in Chicago federal court. The other defendants, Carter Rohn and Emily Hernandez, were arrested in their respective states.
The indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., outlines a conspiracy involving the theft of personal information from over 50 victims, creation of fake identification documents, and subsequent impersonation to access victims’ online, financial, and social media accounts. The scheme, operational from March 2021 to April 2022, involved the co-conspirators traveling to cellphone retail stores in over 15 states. The modus operandi included duping phone companies into swapping SIM cards, thereby bypassing multifactor authentication and gaining access to victims’ accounts.
Although the indictment does not explicitly name FTX, details align with the publicly known information about the hack. The accused individuals allegedly executed a SIM swap on an FTX employee’s cellular telephone account on the same day the exchange filed for bankruptcy protection. Subsequently, over $400 million in virtual currency was transferred from FTX’s virtual wallets to wallets controlled by the co-conspirators. The arrests come amid increased scrutiny of cybersecurity in the crypto space and follow the conviction of former FTX Chief Sam Bankman-Fried on conspiracy and wire fraud charges related to stealing billions from customers.
Digital Assets Desk