Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren announced 30 felony charges against Clark for “scamming people across America, perpetrating the ‘Bit-Con’ hack of prominent Twitter accounts including Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Elon Musk,” according to his statement.
Clark is accused of hacking Twitter accounts of celebrities on July 15 and posting messages that directed victims to send Bitcoin to him, according to the statement. He received more than $10,000 in Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that is “difficult to track and recover if stolen in a scam,” Warren said.
“These crimes were perpetrated using the names of famous people and celebrities, but they’re not the primary victims here. This ‘Bit-Con’ was designed to steal money from regular Americans from all over the country, including here in Florida. This massive fraud was orchestrated right here in our backyard, and we will not stand for that,” Warren added.
The statement said that the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice located the suspect in Hillsborough after a “complex nationwide investigation.” Clark, whom Warren called “the mastermind of the recent hack of Twitter,” was arrested on the morning of July 31 in Tampa, Florida, his arrest report shows.
“I want to congratulate our federal law enforcement partners—the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, the FBI, the IRS, and the Secret Service—as well as the Florida Department of Law enforcement. They worked quickly to investigate and identify the perpetrator of a sophisticated and extensive fraud,” Warren said.
Twitter responded by thanking law enforcement for its “swift actions,” and said it would continue to cooperate with the investigation.
Here’s what you need to know:
Clark Faces 30 Felony Charges
Warren has filed 30 felony charges against Clark.
The charges Clark faces include organized fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, and hacking, Warren said in a video he posted on Twitter. Here’s a list of specific charges, according to Warren’s statement:
ORGANIZED FRAUD (OVER $50,000) – 1 count
COMMUNICATIONS FRAUD (OVER $300) – 17 counts
FRAUDULENT USE OF PERSONAL INFORMATION (OVER $100,000 OR 30 OR MORE VICTIMS) – 1 count
FRAUDULENT USE OF PERSONAL INFORMATION – 10 counts
ACCESS COMPUTER OR ELECTRONIC DEVICE WITHOUT AUTHORITY (SCHEME TO DEFRAUD) – 1 count
Among the charges, two are first-degree felonies, one is a second-degree felony while 27 are third-degree felonies, Warren said in a news conference.
He pointed out that the attack could have resulted in “an extremely high amount of loss,” but Clark was caught quickly.
Warren said in the statement what Clark did was “wrong” and he would “hold this defendant accountable.”
“Scamming people out of their hard-earned money is always wrong. Whether you’re taking advantage of someone in person or on the internet, trying to steal their cash or their cryptocurrency—it’s fraud, it’s illegal, and you won’t get away with it,” he said in the statement.
Clark Is a Minor & Will Be Prosecuted in Florida
Clark was born on January 9, 2003, and is a resident of Tampa, Florida, his arrest report shows. He was arrested at 6:39 a.m. on July 31 in an apartment in northern Tampa, about 2.6 miles away from his registered address.
Despite being a minor, Warren said of Clark in a news conference: “He’s a 17-year-old kid who apparently just graduated high school. But make no mistake, this was not an ordinary 17-year-old. This was a highly sophisticated attack on a magnitude not seen before.”
According to Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office, Florida law “allows minors to be charged as adults in financial fraud cases such as this when appropriate,” and the 17-year-old will be prosecuted in his hometown.
“This defendant lives here in Tampa, he committed the crime here, and he’ll be prosecuted here,” Warren said.
Clark Targeted 130 Accounts & Twitter Was ‘Embarrassed’
In the July 15 hack, 130 Twitter accounts were compromised, and hackers tweeted messages from 45 of them to lure victims to send Bitcoin to accounts associated with them, according to Twitter’s investigation.
Celebrities including Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mike Bloomberg, and Kanye West were among those whose accounts were hacked. The fraudulent posts asked people to send Bitcoin to accounts that prosecutors said were associated with Clark, and promised to “double all payments.”
Clark reaped more than $10,000 in only one day, according to Warren.
Twitter, the tech giant, said in a blog post that it was “embarrassed” by the incident: “We’re embarrassed, we’re disappointed, and more than anything, we’re sorry. We know that we must work to regain your trust, and we will support all efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.”