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10-year Jail For U.S. Student For Stealing Crypto Worth $7.5 Mln By Hack

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A U.S. student has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing cryptocurrency worth $7.5 million by hacking others' cell phone.

21-year old Joel Ortiz, a Boston high school valedictorian, cheated at least 40 victims.

"After his thefts, Ortiz spent his loot lavishly, including $10,000 nights at Los Angeles clubs, hiring a helicopter to bring him and some friends to a music festival, and on Gucci luggage and clothing," the Santa Clara County's District Attorney's Office said in a statement.

It described Ortiz as "a prolific SIM swapper" who targeted victims to steal cryptocurrency and to take over social media accounts with the goal of selling them for Bitcoin.

In one successful hack in May 2018, he stole more than $5.2 million in minutes from a cryptocurrency entrepreneur in Cupertino, California.

Ortiz was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport last year. He was one of five people who were taken into custody by the REACT task force for the growing cellphone scam. REACT investigators seized $400,000 from Ortiz.

After pleading no contest to 10 felony theft charges, Ortiz was sentenced by Santa Clara County Judge Edward Lee.

"These are not Robin Hoods, but crooks who use a computer instead of a gun," prosecutor Erin West said. They are not just stealing some ethereal, experimental currency. They are stealing college funds, home mortgages, people's financial lives," she added.

The Santa Clara County's District Attorney's Office said there are a number of ways that an illegal SIM swap can be orchestrated. In one, hackers call a telecom company posing as their target and claim that their SIM card has been lost, and that they would like their number to be ported to a new card.

The criminals can convince phone companies that they are who they claim to be by providing stolen social security numbers or addresses. Once the telecom company transfers the number to a new SIM card, hackers can bypass two-step authentication measures for accounts by using the phone as a recovery method.

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