The Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged three individuals with orchestrating a SIM swap scam that siphoned more than $400 million from cryptocurrency exchange FTX, sending the company into bankruptcy.
$400 Million Stolen from FTX in SIM Swap Hack, Department of Justice Charges Three People
The defendants, Robert Powell of Illinois, Emily Hernandez of Colorado, and Carter Rohn of Indiana, allegedly targeted FTX and others over a two-year period.
FTX is not named in the indictment filed in federal court in Washington, but sources with knowledge of the case confirmed that the company named “victim company-1” mentioned in the court files is FTX.
The attack occurred hours after FTX filed for bankruptcy in November 2022 and its founder Sam Bankman-Fried resigned.
Bankman-Fried, who faces decades in prison after being convicted of fraud late last year, claimed the attack may have been an inside job. However, prosecutors rejected this theory.
According to the indictment, Powell, Rohn and Hernandez collected the personal data of approximately 50 victims and used that information to direct cell phone providers to port the victims' phone numbers to a fake phone they had.
They were able to break into victims' financial accounts and crypto wallets by intercepting text messages, including multi-factor authentication codes.
Powell, who used the pseudonyms 'R$ and ElSwapo1 online and is the alleged ringleader of the group, then used various authentication codes to access FTX's crypto wallets.
SIM swapping, which relies on psychological manipulation or bribery of telecom customer service representatives, has become a popular way to infiltrate social media and email accounts, cryptocurrency exchanges and online banking.
*This is not investment advice.