CA: Two men indicted in “sim swapping” scheme to steal cryptocurrency

SAN FRANCISCO – A federal grand jury indicted Ahmad Wagaafe Hared and Matthew Gene Ditman with conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, conspiracy to commit access device fraud, extortion, and aggravated identity theft, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent in Charge John Bennett.

According to the indictment unsealed today, Hared, 21, of Tucson, Ariz., and Ditman, 23, of Las Vegas, Nev., engaged in a scheme to obtain by fraud and extortion cryptocurrencies and other money and property owned and controlled by executives of cryptocurrency-related companies and cryptocurrency investors.  The indictment alleges Hared, Ditman, and their co-conspirators used fraud, deception, and social engineering techniques to induce representatives of cellphone service providers to provide information about the SIM cards of the conspirators’ victims.  A SIM card—short for Subscriber Identity Module or Subscriber Identification Module—is a technology used to identify and authenticate subscribers on mobile phone devices.  The conspirators allegedly convinced the representatives of cellphone service providers to transfer or port cellphone numbers from SIM cards in the devices possessed by victims to SIM cards in devices possessed by the conspirators, a practice known as SIM swapping.  The indictment further alleges that after Hared, Ditman, and others gained control of victims’ cellphone numbers, they used additional deceptive techniques to gain access to email, electronic storage, and other accounts of victims and ultimately to cryptocurrency accounts of victims.  Hared, Ditman, and their co-conspirators also extorted victims of the SIM swapping scheme.

Hared was arrested in Tucson and made his initial appearance in the District of Arizona on January 31, 2019.  He was released on a $100,000 bond.  His next scheduled appearance is at 9:30 a.m. on February 13, 2019, before the Honorable Laurel Beeler, U.S. Magistrate Court Judge.

Ditman was arrested in Las Vegas and made his initial appearance in the District of Nevada on January 31, 2019.  He was released on bond.  His next scheduled appearance is at 9:30 a.m. on February 6, 2019, before Judge Beeler.

The indictment charges the defendants with the following crimes and, if found guilty, they are subject to the following maximum statutory penalties:

Count Charge Maximum Penalties
One 18 U.S.C. § 1030(b) – Conspiracy to Commit Computer Fraud and Abuse Five years of imprisonment; $250,000 fine or not more than twice the gross gain or twice the gross loss; three years of supervised release; $100 special assessment; forfeiture; and restitution
Two 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(7) – Threatening to Damage a Protected Computer Five years of imprisonment; $250,000 fine or not more than twice the gross gain or twice the gross loss; three years of supervised release; $100 special assessment; forfeiture; and restitution
Three 18 U.S.C. § 875(d) – Interstate Communications with Intent to Extort Two years of imprisonment; $250,000 fine or not more than twice the gross gain or twice the gross loss; one year of supervised release; $100 special assessment; forfeiture; and restitution
Four 18 U.S.C. § 1029(b)(2) – Conspiracy to Commit Access Device Fraud Five years of imprisonment; $250,000 fine or not more than twice the gross gain or twice the gross loss; three years of supervised release; $100 special assessment; forfeiture; and restitution
Five 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1) – Aggravated Identity Theft Two-year mandatory minimum consecutive sentence

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Leach is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Mimi Lam and Rebecca Shelton.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI.

Further Information:

Case #: 19-040 WHO

A copy of this press release will be placed on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can.

Electronic court filings and further procedural and docket information are available at https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.

Judges’ calendars with schedules for upcoming court hearings can be viewed on the court’s website at www.cand.uscourts.gov.

Source:   U.S. Attorney’s Office,  Northern District of California

 

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