A Florida teenager who hacked into Twitter accounts of high-profile celebrities, public figures, and politicians, such as former President Barack Obama and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, in a Bitcoin scheme last year will spend three years in jail as part of a plea deal agreement, state officials announced Wednesday afternoon.
Graham Ivan Clark, 18, pleaded guilty to thirty counts in connection with a Bitcoin scheme last year, by which he accessed the Twitter accounts of prominent figures and solicited Bitcoin donations from their followers for himself. Many high-profile accounts were affected, including rapper Kanye West, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, and former President Barack Obama.
“I am giving back to my community due to Covid-19! All bitcoin sent to my address below will be sent back doubled,” the compromised Twitter account of Barack Obama tweeted in July 2020, along with the address of a Bitcoin wallet connected to Clark, reported ABC News. “If you send $1,000, I will send back $2,000! Only doing this for the next 30 minutes! Enjoy!”
The agreement stipulates that Clark, the so-called mastermind of the plan, will spend three years in a juvenile facility and an additional three years on probation. Clark was 17 at the time of the incident and will receive educational and transitional services as part of a youthful offenders law, so long as he does not violate his probation. Two others have been charged in connection with the incident, but their cases are pending.
“He took over the accounts of famous people, but the money he stole came from regular, hard-working people. Graham Clark needs to be held accountable for that crime, and other potential scammers out there need to see the consequences,” said Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren in a statement. “In this case, we’ve been able to deliver those consequences while recognizing that our goal with any child, whenever possible, is to have them learn their lesson without destroying their future.”
According to the state attorney’s office, Clark raised 12.86 Bitcoin by drawing donations through the compromised Twitter accounts and kept it for himself. At the time, the Bitcoin haul was worth $117,440 and would be worth $745,748 as of March 17, 2021.
Clark, however, was arrested within weeks of the Twitter hack. He turned 18 in January 2021.
“A great deal of impressive work has gone into stopping these fraud schemes and holding the people behind them accountable,” said Warren. “The Florida Department of Law Enforcement shared its expertise in economic crimes, working closely with our experienced team to define the charges and build the case. This is one part of a nationwide effort, and we want to recognize all the federal partners involved—the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, other elements of the US Department of Justice, the FBI, the IRS, and the Secret Service. They quickly unraveled this mystery that stretched around the world, and then worked nonstop to catch the fraudsters who tried to take advantage of millions of unsuspecting people.”